Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Great Windy Outdoor Championships

July 14, we were greeted with Yahoo indicated 15mph winds.  I was there to watch my pal Angela Staab run her 800m. They say Chicago is the windy city.  I think Allendale Michigan comes close.  On arrival at the Grand Valley State University in Allendale on Thursday, the temperature was in the 70s.  Pleasant, low humidity, but, heavens, the wind! We had encountered Ann Carter, one of the penthaletes who had just come out of one of the events.  She said many had bailed in the 800m because of the winds. Ann is a hurdler and penthalete, and is usually signed up for a horde of events.  In the W60-104 AG, twelve started and six finished!  Wow!  Imagine, doing all the pentathlon activities, then essentially, foregoing all points associated with one of the 5 events! 

 What a gorgeous track awaited:  blue, beneath a light blue sky with puffy clouds.  Unlike the huge stadium at UNF in Jacksonville last year, this stadium was without the grand height, but quite sufficient for the athletes and visitors.   There is always a contained  excitement when first arriving at a National event.  Anticipation of one’s events, as well as communing with those one has met at prior Meets.  I had picked up my package envelope and had to hold tight to it while watching the events.  15mph may have been average but the gusts had to be higher.
Great track - sort of Carolina Blue!

I watched several of the 800m races, rooting for those I knew, of course.  Angela ran with two women who would later become part of our 4x100 relay team: Ruth Thelen, 1st in 3:35.56 and Cora Hill, 3rd in 4:10.55.  Angela ran it in 5:14.63 and was happy with her time.  They all had the wind to contend with.  Next, I watched Coreen Steinbach come in second in her race (2:53.78). Next up was Lesley Chaplin’s winning run of 2:43.65. Then it was the men; with Carl Dixon Cook chasing Robert Jackson (2:32.53) and David Salazar (2:33.52) to come in third in 2:34.19.
Start of W70 800m

With the winds swirling during the entire Meet, it would be tough to make a record.  I don’t like distance. Running against the wind? Oy!  Carl said he wasn’t even aware of it (he was too focused on chasing two men.)  Angela, though, felt it!

Grand Rapids was a half hour or so from Allendale.  When I arrived, Carl drove Angela’s barge from the hotel out to the track.   Good heavens: short merge lanes with high speed drivers in the merge lane.  Exit signs were not too far ahead of the actual exit in some cases.  It took us a few times to get it right.  (The return trip was more than exciting with two women (not me) indicating differing directions to go!)

Our announcer, Peter Taylor. Busy all day, every day.

Angela and I ate Italian for dinner, both of us having egg plant.  Quite good but I did not finish it.  Appetite not quite there, though I'd eaten an apple earlier.

Friday, July 15th our first event was the javelin.  This would be my second time trying the jav.  Angela had talked me into trying it at Powerade Games in mid-June.  Pathetic.  There were 13 of us in the 70 to 104AG.  Given a chance to “pick”, I was able to get the jav to stick each time; encouraging.  However, when my turns came, my throws were short or in two cases flat, equaling a foul.  I watched others heave the jav, some to amazing distances (one lady from  NY, Diane Jenke-McMahan threw 22.57m (74 feet!)) Gloria Krug, 85, set a new record, throwing 12.86m or 42.02 ft.  She also set a new W85 discus record, throwing  15.29m (50-02 feet)  She came to set records.   I watched the smoothness of Christel Donley and others as they approached and threw. After the event, Christel showed  Mary Roman some tips.  Mary Roman and I threw about the same in both discus and javelin.  Of course, Kathy Bergen won our AG handily, despite, in the discus having to change her mechanics due to injury. Wow, could she heave it nonetheless. (17.92m (58-09ft) in javelin, and 20.65m (67-09ft) in discus.)

From the javelin and discus area, one could see scads of satellite dishes lined up nearby, one larger than the next.  During the discus event the next day, we spotted a hang glider high up soaring over a distant area containing homes.

Angela and I were both running the 400m later in the day, but had time to return to Grand Rapids and have brunch.  I indulged and had eggs and bacon and one small pancake at the waffle house.  I rarely eat before a track event.  Even if it is in the afternoon.  But I was hungry and boy, did the coffee taste good.

Back at the track by around one p.n. for our 2:30 p.m. 400m, I went off to warm up, a task I don’t enjoy much.  Those who know me, know my thoughts about the 400m.  Enough said.  I would be running with Rose Green and Jane Simpson. (Jane Simpson, though my age, brims with stamina: steeplechase, penthalon, and track. Not a speed demon but persistent.)   I had last seen Rose at the 2015 USATF Masters Indoor Championships at JDL in Winston Salem, NC.  I saw her in the midst of a relay and was dazzled by her speed.  I knew that this would be a tough event, one I was not likely to win but would like to at least make it close. So, I had gotten a one hour coaching lesson on using starting blocks with some great tips.  However, my knees tend to resist the position unless really warmed up.   We got to our lanes, Jane in 5, me in 6, and Rose in 7.  There was a delay. We were out there early. I set the blocks up and attempted a few starts.  Rose tried the blocks and then abandoned them.  
400m W70+ start. Look at those marvelous storm-like clouds!

When the gun went off, Rose took off. By the time I noticed, she was probably 30m ahead of me.  As we went down the backstretch, her lead grew. I heard Peter Taylor, announcer extraordinaire, saying she was leaping ahead (well, he did not say “leaping” exactly). I am thinking I must just keep going, not wanting to go too fast and burn out before the last 100.  However, she was now at the point where it was evident I could never catch her. I think when I got into the final turn, she was 100m ahead of me.  I chugged along, just wanting to finish. Apparently so intent on getting it over that I really, really, screwed up.  However, I did not know it until the next day when my pal Mary Robinson, took me aside and told me. Didn’t you hear us, she asked?  Nope. I did hear people yelling at me to keep going while I was still running.  What I did not realize was that when I stopped running and walked (being sure to stay within my lane so I would not impede anyone else finishing – Jane?)  Perhaps I should say ambled. The straight line I stopped running at was NOT the Finish line.  No!  It was a random (imo) line 10m before the actual Finish which was denoted by lane numbers following the finish and a large while pole on the right.  Nope, I saw the timing clock (1:33 at the time, I think), the line, and the lane lines.  Aach! Rose won in 1:27.42.  My time on crossing the Finish (ha ha) was 1:38.20.
The walk of shame

I stayed to watch some of the younger folk run the 400m: Latrica Dendy (W40-NY) in 59.39; Lane Wilton (W50-NC) in 1:11.90, and Lesley Chaplin (W55-GA) in her 400m prelims in 1:09.98.  Coreen Steinbach won her 400 (1:15.67) and field maestro Mary Hartzler came in 3rd in 1:26.94.  Angela came in 2nd in her AG in 2:10.56. There were a lot of hot shots there, making these events exciting to watch. But isn’t that always the way at Nationals.

That evening, we ate Italian again. This time I had fettucini.  I finished it.  Lots of eating for me this day.

Saturday, both Angela and I had the discus, then I had the 100m at 11 a.m.  Discus was another bust for me, but I did get good tips from Angela and others for the next time (the next time being a few days from now as I write this.)  I went out to the large field adjacent to the track where folks were warming up.  I progressed slowly into the warm up since it takes a while for the breathing (stamina?) to kick in.  I trotted the big square around the field. On one of my passes, I spotted it. A bad omen, for sure. It made me sad, actually. A dead bird on the ground. It did not move and may have been there for a few hours. Got tired of flying? Do birds at the end, just come down to the ground, having no energy to fly and then wait to pass on? (I had recently found a Cardinal sitting near my door.  Tired, with some feathers molting it seemed.  It had disappeared by morning. Perhaps a cat had taken it in the end.)

discus queue: Kathy Bergen, Flo Meiler, Gloria Krug?

Today, I had Kathy Bergen as well as Rose Green to contend with.  Lana Kane was yet another competitor.  Not that I am negative, but, really, with speed demons such as Kathy and Rose, I knew the best I could hope for was 3rd and the worst I would get would be 4th.  Prior to leaving for Grand Rapids, I had checked the Start lists. Christel Donly and the amazing and jovial Flo Meiler (what a beautiful smile this lady has!) were in my heat. So, too, was 88-yar-old Sumi Onodera-Leonard. But what struck me was the listing of 99-year-old Jeanette Baas from Kalamazoo (perfect!) MI.  Really?  Was this an error or for real.
Me, already several steps behind the leaders. Jeanette Bass (white pants,  Lane 1)

We lined up in our lanes. Kathy, Rose, Christel, and Flo were on my left.  As we waited (yes, I tried the blocks again), a Gator vehicle rolled up.  A younger woman gets out and pulls out a  walker. After the walker is placed on the track, an older woman is helped out of the cart. This is Jeanette Baas and she is lined up in Lane 1.  I’m thinking, whoa, here! Is she going to go down the 100m with the walker?  I am astounded.  Okay, so I am na├»ve, but I swear, I once saw a photo of an elderly gentleman on the cover (?) of National Masters News with a walker.   At the time, I was astounded. So, now, I figure, well, here we go. But, no. The walker is removed and the lady stands in Lane one with her granddaughter standing behind her. Rule is no touching.  When the gun went off, I ran down the track with Kathy and Rose long gone. Christel was right next to me . We raced to get to the line. She, in turn, was racing Flo! Different age groups, but who cares. It is a race!  Fun.

We all turn and look back. Jeanette Baas is proceeding step by step down the track with the “kid” behind her, arms out stretched as if to catch Jeanette should she topple backwards.  An official is walking  adjacent on the infield.
Jeanette Baas, 99, on closing on Finish

  There is a metal rim dividing the track from the infield. I worry that Jeanette might somehow catch her foot on it.  At one point she wobbles, stops, then starts moving again. The walker waits at the Finish.  Amid crowd cheers, she crosses the Finish to her walker. Eventually, she is surrounded by her large family.  Her time? 4:02.55. Not a record but an enormous achievement for her.  
Jeanette Baas, 99, finishing 100m

The wind was -0.9 (in our faces but who knew?) Kathy Bergen ran 15.82; Rose Green 17.36, me 19.28, Lana Kane 21.79 (her first time racing in quite a while).  Flo Meiler just beat Christel Donley, 20.62 to 20.79. Sumi finished in 32.59.  Eighty-eight! Think about it. 100m when one is older is not a short distance.  If I reach 88, 100m will seem like 800m to me. Un-doable!

I watched the 200m prelims for the W55 and W50s, started by the grand stand side and finishing on the back stretch side.

Lesley Chaplin

Lane Wilton

I did not see the beginning of a subsequent race, just the end in which a woman wearing a “visually impaired” vest competed.  All three days, there were two Guide dogs there with their person, one of whom, for sure, could not see.  She competed in field events. I admire their confidence and competitive spirit.    

I watched some of the women's 2000m steeplechase with Jane Simpson and Mary Trotto and others.  If Barbara Knight Warren had not been doing hurdles and everything she could gobble up, despite a bad knee, she, too would have been out there.  Instead, she took some terrific photos of the action, including one of Jane catching her foot and essentially falling and going under the water.  Mary Trotto nicely climbed over each hurdle and at the last 100m pushed it!  Impressive.

On our return to the hotel, taking the USATF provided bus (Thank you, USATF!), we encountered a traffic backup that was caused by the separation of a recreational vehicle from the pickup truck towing it.  The large white vehicle had apparently gone up the embankment separating us from the opposing traffic, and come down in the left lane on its side.  Great gouges had been torn into the embankment. Freaking scary!  Imagine the vehicles that had been behind it when this happened.

That evening five  Piedmont Pacers ate at Bagger Dave’s. I had mahi mahi burger with pickled red onions, guacamole, and black bean salsa.  Upon arrival, I wondered how I would get my mouth around it without everything squirting out the other end.  I managed – carefully. But at the cost of messy hands! 

Sunday had a forecast of rain.  I was done with field events but Angela had shot put and weight throwing as well as our 200m.  The 200 was at 10:30.  This time, I practiced yet another way of using blocks that I had been told about.  Since my knees were so so, I would use one block. So, while warming up, I practiced and practiced.  What the heck, I had little to lose. Kathy and Rose would come in first and second, so it would be me and Lana Kane fighting for third.  When we lined up in our lanes, Lana asked where the fourth was.  Sumi (W88) was supposed to be running in our heat but she did not show.  So, off we went and as expected Kathy came in first (34.95), Rose second (36.85), me third (40.61) and Lana just after me.  This was the only event in which I bettered my time from the June Powerade races.  (I have been degrading as the year has progressed.)
Rose Green, new Outdoor 400m Champion

An exciting race to watch was the W55 200m, with Lesley Chaplin, who has now picked up running the shorter race, along with her mid-distance events.  It was a very tight finish.  Joy Upshaw came close to besting the record, finishing first in 27.69, followed by Daphne Sluys in 29.70.  The race for third was a nail biter. Leslie and Vicki Fox were battling it out, almost adjacent to each other.  Leslie just edged Vicki , 31.38 to 31.90, to take third.  Miss Leslie has certainly broadened her horizons. 

The battles between M60 Oscar Peyton and Damien Leake - something to watch!.  These two always make it exciting.  In the 100m prelims, Oscar beat Damien. However, in the 100m Finals, Damien beat Oscar 12.26 to 12.32 in a -3.6 headwind. In the 200m prelim, Oscar came in first and Damien 4th.  Oscar beat Damien in the Final, 24.73 to 25.04.  So, one each!

Dark clouds were appearing and the winds, oh, my, the winds. A few rain drops came down while our relay team was practicing.  The winds were picking up. Originally, a month or so before Nationals, it was going to be Angela, Mary Robinson, Ruth Thelen, and me in a non-club 4x100.  But Mary had gotten injured and was in recovery and not running.  Angela recruited Cora Hill to be our fourth. I had not met either Ruth nor Cora before, but they were both delightful.  Cora sprightly and Ruth bouncy and happy. We practiced passing the baton a few times as the winds picked up.
Cora passing to Angela

  Many were doing the relay, both club and non club.   I wondered if we would get the relay in before the rains. 
Cora Hill, Angela Staab, Ruth Thelen, LG

Eventually, the 50 through 70 non-club women relay teams were led out onto the track. Cora was our leadoff and would be passing to Angela, who would pass to Ruth who would pass to me, the anchor. 
Cora Hill our lead off in lane2 4x100

There was a long wait once we got out there. There were at least two 50s teams, one 60s, and our 70 team.  Venus Jewett was on one of the 50 teams and kept everyone’s spirits up (what a joyous lady this woman is!).
Venus Jewett, after 2nd relay. My fav photo!

 The 60-year-old was getting anxious and wanting to get going.  At this point, the winds were becoming wicked.  They were averaging around 25mph and gusting to 40mph (certainly true by the time the men’s 4x100s began.)  Finally, they were off. I could not really see Angela until just before she handed off to Ruth.  Ruth came charging around the curve at a terrific speed.The 60 year old had already gotten her baton and was on her way down the track.  I made sure to keep my left hand back and started moving into the passing zone looking back until Ruth was nearly upon me (I should have run faster so she would not have had to slow up but I was afraid I would screw up and either drop the baton or run out of the passing zone.)  Miss 60-year-old (yes, I know her name but let’s leave it at the 60 one) was maybe a third to half way down the track by now.  I wanted her badly.  I closed the gap and nearly got her just before the Finish line.  Our team finished 13/100 of a second behind the 60s.

I  later watched the men’s 4x100 relays from the vantage point of the far curve near the 200m start area.  There was a large white tent there that began flapping and vibrating as the winds picked up.  Some of the men passing the baton in the exchange area were almost blown out of the lanes with the force of the wind on that back stretch curve. 

 I finished out the day watching the men’s non club 4x400 and 4x800 in which two Piedmont Pacers, Carl Dixon Cook and Kevin Gobble competed.  This was followed by the women’s club relays.

It did not rain before we left. But the wind was something to experience.  I also never got to the Lake or saw the rapids.  Ah, well. I did get to see the skyline and walk a few residential streets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a magnificent job you did on this report, Louise. You might even ask Ken Stone ( to reprint some of it with your permission.

Congratulations, Louise, and I will get back to you with comments.

Peter Taylor