March 2nd. After an awe inspiring flight over geological upheavals, glacial scrapings, and earthquake crevices (are the plates separating?), a flight change in slot machine land of Vegas, I arrived in Albuquerque, sans my checked bag. Well, I had some track clothes and my shoes. I could survive.
Since I was two hours ahead of my pal Angela Staab, I had time to leave my carryon at the hotel and venture out into the dark streets of ABQ. It had been 37 years since I was last here – I was a lot younger. However, I am still just as stupid or foolhardy depending upon how one views it. I was headed for a store where I could purchase a room spray (nerves, anyone?) in case needed. So, off I walk down the absolutely deserted Lomas Blvd. It was around 7 p.m. Downtown was totally deserted. Folks must flee like mice from a trap when office hours end. Why worry about crime when there was no prey to be pounced upon? What a contrast to downtown Raleigh. We still have life (restaurants, bars, runners etc) after dark right in the midst of government buildings.
|Lomas, at night|
I had no idea how far Lowes Market would be – nor how long an ABQ block is. After much walking I see a fellow carrying plastic grocery bags approaching. Yes, a trackster. He tells me it is about 5 more blocks. I jog a bit. No breathing problems. (home altitude 479', ABQ altitude 5280') Well, I think, running here may not be too bad. I found the store, got my goodies including fruit, and begin the trek back. Did I mention that I had passed at least three bail bond places along the way? Should I need bail, I now was prepared to direct the poor sucker who would have to post my bond. (not included in USATF fees?)
Next up along Lomas was the courthouse, then,
as I turned towards the hotel, two ABQ PD cars and, apparently their
constabulary HQ. I snuck a photo and went on my way.
|one of many bail bond places|
March 3rd. In the morning, Angela and I went to find something to eat (neither of us had received the complimentary hotel breakfast passes.) So, off we go down Lomas again. We find the big orange chair
and spot a few folks, but mostly, the streets are deserted. The bodies are busy in their office cubby holes. We had been directed to a place on Central Ave. When we got there what we found were mostly closed (like permanently) businesses. Angela is quite uneasy now. We turn around and head back up Lomas finding a burrito place (not for breakfast, thank you) and then, on a corner, a small restaurant. We enter and right away I see it does not feature bacon and eggs or anything similar. There is a guy in there, seeming a bit off, mumbling and counting change on the counter. I have a feeling he might ask us for money since he is talking about needing money for rent. However, he gathers his change and leaves. Angela decides to order some kind of omelet bagel, I think, and I, with misgivings, ordered an egg bagel with cheese. Angela is surveying the cooking area. Cataloguing the unclean areas. Both of us later felt not so hot. (I should have gotten the bagel with cream cheese – better, yet, left!)
After this we ventured out to Old Town, where we walked, surveyed, marveled, and ate ice cream. Later in the afternoon, we walk to the Convention Center to get a look at the track (which, it turns out, is temporary and will be dismantled when the event is over.) After we both declared for our events and picked up our packet, we entered the track area. The backside of the stands faced us. I spot the edge of the curved track. Scary. Curving up, then around and down to the back stretch.
|facing back halfway|
|near 200m start|
I ventured up onto it. At first, slowly trotting around. Others were slowly running. One fellow, Joey Shelton (35), was setting up and testing blocks in Lane 6, the outermost and most banked lane. I had been thinking of using blocks in the 400 (which I never do) because I am so much slower than my competitors. However, looking at the banking and talking to Joey, that idea went right up the smokestack. No way. Even on a flat track, I am not sure using blocks is an advantage for me.
Mary Robinson and Mary Hartzler arrive. We chat and all of us step up onto the track. Eventually, I try actual running. Oy! Gasp gasp. Very quickly I run out of breath. I can’t even get beyond the back stretch before in oxygen deprivation. Sure, I have not warmed up, but, gee, so quickly? What is this bit about thin air being an advantage to sprinters? A fable, IMO. I walked and later tried again at a very moderate pace. Still a great effort. I leave the track less than optimistic, already worried that I might not finish the next day’s 400m without needing to walk before running even 200m.
Angela and I ate at Standard Diner on Central.
All night long when I should have been sleeping, I visualized the 400m and various tactics I might use. Like my dreaming dog, my feet kept moving. Exhausting, running a race before it even started.
March 4th. My 400m is not until 1 p.m. so I have some breakfast oatmeal and a few slices of bacon. Usually, I do not eat. But today there was plenty of time. Angela and I are both running the 400m so we go over together.
Right away, we are greeted with a woman being wheeled out on a gurney in obvious distress. From pain or disappointment or both. (It was Australian Marie Kay (56). Injured during penthalon high jump. Pulled hamstring prognosis at the time. Saturday, she was able to walk, however.) Angela and I looked at each other, feeling more trepidation. We entered the track area to see Christel Donley (80) on crutches, and hearing Peter Taylor (event announcer) calling for a trainer to come to the track. Another injury! Yikes! Later, I found out that Irene Obera had also gotten injured doing the 60m hurdles, hitting the second hurdle and falling on her back! (Only to get up and finish second!)
I allowed at least an hour to warm up, which for me means getting beyond a walk, which is all I can handle an hour before an event. It is a slow progression to feeling able to more than walk. I try to recall some of the Camp Gladiator warm up tasks and incorporate some (but not at the same seemingly unending effort.) I meet Mary Smith, the Colorado Springs competitor who has a jaw dropping 400m time. I have already mentally placed her in the same category as my 60m and 200m competitor Kathy Bergen – not bloody likely to catch her. Certainly not at my current times. Jeanne Daprano arrives. Previously, when we have been in the same 400m (SouthEastern Outdoor Masters) I have always eaten her track dust. (coughing up a storm after.) Then she aged up. I have been spared these past four years. It is very dry inside the track. I easily run out of air during warm up.
When it is time to get on the track, our cat-herding lady leads us, the oldest women, out to the track. (This official was superb at her job throughout the Meet. Clear instructions, patience, and one could hear her!) Besides Mary and Jeanne, there is Irene Obera, the 82 year old phenom still continuing her events despite the earlier slam to ground, and unstoppable 87 year Sumi Onodera-Leonard. I get lane 2, Sumi on my left in lane 1, then on my right with increasing track banking, are Mary Smith lane 3, Jeanne Daprano lane 4, and Irene Obera Lane 5. I tried to stay calm (my FitBit heart rate as we had approached the track was already at 106.) I stayed in a standing start pose (less chance of losing balance). So, off we go.
And there goes Mary Smith followed by Jeanne. I lagged way behind these two, especially on the back stretch. I tried to synch my breathing with my left foot. After we passed the cones marking where we could cut into lane 1, Jeanne sped up. Now I was farther behind the two leaders. I was breathing, yes. I was moving, yes. But pushing it on that second pass along the back stretch was not happening. With such a big gap between me and Jeanne, I abandoned my plan of the evening before and stayed in lane 1 at the curve. Not until the home stretch did I give my last, trying, though knowing it was futile, to catch Jeanne. I finished third and went into a gasping coughing spell. Mary Smith’s time was 1:25.1 and Jeanne’s was 1:30.2
|Daprano and Smith|
While I was coughing away, Irene came in at 2:14.59 and steadfast Sumi trekked along the back stretch, sometimes slowing and bending over. I don’t know how she does it. About half way down the home stretch she picked up her pace and came across the Finish in fine fashion. (4:03.60) A track star, she came back after a devastating auto accident. (https://www.growingbolder.com/sumi-onodera-leonard-963/) I am fortunate to be on the same track as these folks. (thank heavens, Masters does not require qualifying as does National Senior Games! I never would have made it.)
The 400m video
The coughing continued as I exited the track. A Medical fellow asked if I needed aid. Not if it means any drug, said I. Nope, oxygen, says he. I said no, but that might not have been a bad idea. The coughing was incessant. Others were also having this problem throughout the Meet. Between my exercise induced asthma in longer track events, the effect of track particulates and the ABQ sea level, I whttp://www.usatf.tv/gprofile.php?mgroup_id=45365as a mess. Pretty dreadful.
Angela had some field events and she as well as Mary Robinson did the 400m (both now in a younger group than me.) Mary looked smooth coming around the track. She has a good stride; and Angela kept up a good pace, conquering her fear of being in an outer lane for the first half of the race. Mary won her AG. Of course! Kathleen Frable, of Utah, came in second, also handling an outer lane quite well. However, Barbara Hensley, racing Frable to the Finish line, somehow found herself face down on the track, just short of the line. She edged to the line to get her mark, leaving blood on the track. Determination! Angela, coming along after, squeezed by the prone Hensley and track official. She met her goal of finishing before her major competitor. By Sunday, Barbara still had a bit of a bruise on the bridge of her nose.
I watched Antwon Dussett(40) set a new American record, finishing in 49:32! These guys and women of the younger set are a joy to watch as they speed around the track. The spectator seats were superb. One could watch all the events if sitting a few rows up. I watched some of the folks go whizzing by while standing on the back stretch. Thundering feet as they approached the banked curve towards the front stretch. Zoom! Gone.
Was I ever thirsty! I did not notice the concession area until Saturday. Lesson learned. Our Piedmont Pacer teammate, Carl Dixon Cook had arrived so we ate Asian that evening. Yum.
March 5th. Up early, ready, sort of, for my 60m. Kathy Bergen, world champ would run away with it but maybe I could keep up with the other AG entry – except – she had scratched. I grabbed a slice of toast and some coffee shortly after 6 a.m. Race was to be at 8 a.m. At the Convention Center, I went through my routine of warming up, drinking some beet juice, and then changing to my track shoes and sucking down some gel. So, I am sitting there, along with other competitors. It is about a quarter of eight and in walks Kathy, still in warm-up clothes. Huh? We had to be ready at quarter of. Wow, I think, she really does not warm up much. Then, Mary Robinson walks in. Huh? Huh? She is also running the 60m. Unlike her to be late. Mary enlightens me – the 60m is at 9 a.m., not 8 a.m. Arrgh! I had mentally switched Sunday’s start time with Saturday. Learn to double check, woman! So, here I am, all warmed up with an hour to go. Ugh. I don’t want to expend more energy warming up all over again, so I sort of mosey around, doing a jog or two and other things until the real queue time arrives.
While we are waiting, there is an endless stream of men running 60m prelims. I think I counted 63 or so at one point. An incredible number of heats (some with 3 folks, some with many more.) All within about a fifteen minute span. One wonders how the announcer, Peter Taylor handles it. Non Stop. He seemed to go all three days without a break. Wind him up and give him a mike! There were also last minute lane changes, some scratches, and for the runners at times confusion as to whether the lane assignment numbers went on left or right hip (longer races: left hip, right shoulder; short events left hip.) There were some false starts (I spotted the fellow on the raised platform at the side, watching, ready with the false start gun.)
This time, they merge AGs 70 and up. I will be racing with Mary Robinson again. Good. Besides Kathy and Mary, there is also Irene Obera and Sumi Onodera-Leonard. I have Kathy on my right and Mary on my left. This event is run on the flat infield of the track. I could use blocks but had decided not to. Sometimes, I have a better start, sometimes the same as a 3-point. Nothing would help me catch Kathy so it is Mary I have to contend with. By now, I have corrected my SouthEast Region Indoor Masters 3-point start screwup, so I am comfortable with it. Gun! Kathy is gone.
|Rob Jerome Photo|
I am playing catch up to Mary. We race together to the end. I think she has gotten it, but as we walk back to get off the track, she looks at the results and zounds, again, there is a 1/100th second difference between us. (last year – the same thing, only this time we switched who had it.) Are we evenly matched or what? Kathy had run to set a new World Record of 9:49, beating her old World Record of 9:55. As I said – no catching her. Feels as if we are running different heats!
I had lost my watch at the event on Friday. Not found. So, I decide to try to buy a new cheapo somewhere. The somewhere is the problem. I figure, maybe at a drugstore (Walgreens?) The hotel tells me there is a drug store by Old Town, about 2 miles. I have no car so it is hoof time again. I don’t know how far it really was, but there were no stores between hotel and Old Town that would carry a watch. I stopped at a gas station that said, oh, yeah, Old Town is down at the next light.
|side alley along lomas|
Now, I have to hoof back in time to watch Lesley Chaplin's 60m Final at 1 p.m. Lesley, a middle distance runner, was trying the 60m for perhaps the first time. She had run a good time in the prelim. I had 40 minutes to get back. I jogged a bit and walked. Huff puff.
I got to the track in time to watch the event. I thought she had a good time, but her reaction to the 60m is like mine to the 400m – never again! I planned to watch Betty Schaefer (SoCal Striders) do the 60m hurdles. There was a long wait, so I decided to have my right knee taped before the relay. (My own taping was peeling off.) By the time I got back into the track area, Betty had hurdled! No mishaps!
I have always read about Bill Collins, a speed demon. I had not heard that he had developed Guillain-Barre disease. I know how physically debilitating that can be. He is, however, back! At age 65, he was competing in the 60m. I watched it from the back stretch area. A tall lanky looking fellow he ran fast enough to almost climb the padding at the end of the track and to set a new American record for M60 of 7.69 seconds, as did Ty Brown (M70) with 8.11 seconds. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to hang in there and push oneself back to competition caliber. Collins deserves all the accolades he has had in the past and more so now.
I rooted for Kathy Wolski (W50) of So Cal in the 1500m. When she ran at JDL during the SouthEast Region Masters, she looked like a little girl, but a fast little girl. She won her AG in ABQ in 5:18.08
And now we get to the infamous relays. These were to be run at 5 p.m. Angela and I returned to the track just before 4. After warm up, as we walked into the track area, yet another woman was being wheeled out, this one in a chair, with both legs being held straight out. She was grimacing, in agony. She appeared to be in her 40s or 30s.
While we waited for the W30-104 4x800 relay to complete (Wolski, SoCal, blazed an opening 800), we got our instructions for the non club 4x200. (Four teams would be competing - the 50s,55s, 60s, and 70s) We'd decided to make it the W70s versus the W60s, with our Mary Robinson’s pal Mary Hartzler running with the 60s. A competition in the making. Mary tells us to pass to, and take, the baton with our left hand, so that we will be positioned properly to take the curve and see the lane ahead. Yes, ma’am. The last two 4x800 runners were coming down the home stretch making a real race of it. The SoCal runner was slightly in the lead, but the blue team runner (non club) was closing the gap fast. And then she fell. Just short of the Finish line. What is going on here?
Our turn. The leadoff runners are queued up at the appropriate start line for their assigned lane. We start in lane 2. The second runner of each team is positioned between the taped blue lines, (The start of the passing zone was short of the Finish line.) Runners 3 and 4 of each team was held to the side. Gun fires. Mary takes off. Angela Staab, our second runner is positioned in lane 2 by the track folk within the blue passing zone. Lesley Chaplin (non club 55-59 team) passes to their 3rd runner. Mary Robinson comes down the home stretch, Angela, in the passing zone in lane 2 starts running. Mary passes off to her left hand. Angela has a nice pace going around to the back stretch. The non club 50s pass to their third runner; and their number two then promptly falls off the track into the infield! (flop flop!) Barbara Hensley, our third runner, is up next . She starts moving and takes the baton from Angela with her left hand. Off she goes. The 60s are ahead of us. Meanwhile, the track official is saying to the remaining anchors: “Are you one, two, or three?” Huh? What’s he talking about. Meanwhile, Barbara, running well, is coming towards the last turn. What do you mean 1, 2, or 3? Shoot! I’m not going to know what he means before Barbara is here! Panic.“Is your runner, one, two or three?” Now there are really only two teams left on the track. Barbara is approaching the final turn. I am out on the track. I finally figure out he means is my teammate first, second, or third of those approaching? Third! (Now two as the 50s team finishes.) We let the 60s woman go by and pass her baton. I wait for Barbara. I wait! She’s here! Not only did I not move forward in the passing zone so we wouldn’t lose momentum, I took the baton with my right hand!
Now that I am running, the only thing on my mind is to catch the 60s runner who is probably ¾ of the way down the back stretch. But she is just above my dog’s trotting pace. I felt good. Really good. My legs were okay, my breathing was holding on. I close the gap. No holding back for the final push. Now we are both on the home stretch and it is all out! Closer. Closer. But not enough! She crosses before me. (Maybe if I had been moving when passed the baton, maybe if I’d taken it with my left hand. Maybe.)
The results indicate that the non-club 55-59 team has set a new American record with a time of 2:07.94, and, to Angela’s uncontained joy, we had also set a new American record, by surpassing our time of last year by three seconds, finishing in 3:09.45 (also 3 seconds behind the 60s, btw)
But wait! We later hear that all the 4x200 records have been invalidated. What? Turns out that the marked (blue taped) passing zone was incorrect for a 3-person exchange. I don’t yet have it figured out, but Mary Robinson had said it to an official before we even started.
The event officials did right to the teams by giving them an opportunity to rerun it the next day (last day of the meet.) On Sunday, at least two of us on the W70 chose not to. I knew from having run the 200m earlier on Sunday (an actual shorter distance than in the relay) that I would be slower. Plus, I had a too tight left calf. The non-club 55-59, team with Susan Loyd, Lesley Chaplin, Julie Hayden , and Vicki Fox did rerun it and, HURRAH, not only set the record again, but ran it even faster: 2.07.91.
|4x200 non club new record Fox, Hayden, Chaplin, Loyd|
Saturday evening dinner was in the hotel (we had by now heard the relay news.) I had a Cobb salad. It hit the spot.
March 6th. Today is the real 8 a.m. start. The 200m. I decide to have a slice of toast with peanut butter shortly after 6 a.m. Then, off to the track to warm up. All of us from the relay team are running the 200 today. I will be running against Kathy Bergen (well, really, same heat but not same race!) and Jeanne Daprano in my AG. Jeanne is also running the 800 today. She is a terrific middle distance runner. Having beaten me in the 400m on the 4th, I was not expecting less of her today. She also ran the 1500m on the 5th. While queued up in the chairs waiting to be led out to the track, there were various delays. Sumi Onodera-Leonard checks in but she doesn’t have her track shoes. Seems her husband had wandered off with them. Fortunately, there was time for her to search him out because when we were finally ler out to the track, she seemed happy. Jeanne Daprano had opted out of running this prior to her 800m.
Kathy was in Lane 2 and I was in three. However, Sumi had been placed up in lane 6 – the lane with the greatest banking. Irene Obera, still going despite the fall on Friday was to my right. Kathy and I were concerned about Sumi up ahead. She came off the track for something and I figured maybe they were going to change her to lane 1. Nope. Brave lady! I went into the three-point stance at the Set then spent the rest of the race watching Kathy disappear ahead of me. I did not feel as good as the day before. My legs were slower and everything seemed more of an effort. I finished way behind Kathy, as expected. 39.15 to her 34.55. Irene (82!) finished in 47.38 (and was bummed out about her time, but, hey! She had a sore bum!) Sumi, who stopped short of the Finish (I was told this and had to watch the video to see it) finished in 1:30.48, at eighty-seven! (I’m beginning to love this lady!) These seniors are not your run of the mill elders, that is for certain.
Now I could relax (well, actually, once I’d run the 400m on Friday, I was relaxed!) and enjoy watching the men run the 200m. Bill Collins and Charles Allie were matched in a thrilling race. Collins set another record in this one, a World record - 24.94. An amazing race.
Carl Dixon Cook and Nolan Shaheed were running the 800m together. A repeat race with these two since Shaheed had come to Winston Salem, NC a few weeks earlier to run in the SouthEast Region Championships. A warmup for Nationals? At about 300m, Carl passed the runner in front of him to become second to Shaheed. We watched him creep up on Shaheed. Exciting. He held onto his pace, but towards the end of the last back stretch, Nolan picked up his pace and came into the finish ahead of Carl. 2:31.37 to Carl’s 2:33.39.
And so it goes. A fun Meet. The track was torn down by around 7 p.m. that evening. Angela, Barbara, and I went to Old Town and the ABQ Museum then ate a terrific meal at Quesadilla Grille (owned by the Garcia family, one of the original settling families.)
If one goes and runs there – bring cough drops!