Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bring on the Games -- and the Heat!

Just about two weeks after USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in windy, but pleasant, Allendale, M.I., it was time for the USA Masters Games in hot and steamy Greensboro, N.C.  The weather during the event was in the mid 90s with a high heat index. This being the inaugural year of the planned every other year event, the track turnout was not comparable to that in Michigan in terms of numbers but it was still high caliber.  The Games encompassed many more sports than track, sort of like a mini Huntsman Games.

The track events, held at A&T University’s Aggie Stadium, had begun on Thursday, July 28th and included the 800m and  5K, as well as pentathlon.   Many scheduled preliminary events were eliminated as unnecessary due to the small number of age group competitors.  This was good for competitors in these events (especially with the warm weather conditions.)  The Hammer and Weight throws were competed at Elon University in Elon N.C. on Thursday and Friday.  Of the folks I follow, Barbara Knight Warren (65-69) competed in the pentathlon which included high jump, long jump, short hurdles (using 30” hurdles because 27” were not available for the older set of competitors) and 800m run.  Barbara collected 1679 points (she was alone in her AG) and was happy to have conquered the hurdles though not getting points for it (not meeting time criteria). All those jumps, and knee jarring events, but Barbara, and others I know, still compete, ensconced in all sorts of knee contraptions.  Not for me!

Lane Wilton, W50, just edged out the second place competitor in the 800m by 3/100th of a second,  2:42.28 to 2:42.31.  Lesley Chaplin (W58) handily won her 800m in 2:36.90. Nonie Hudnell (W66), a lady who likes distance, ran the 800m in 3:18.06. Barbara Hensley and Angela Staab (both part of our non-club relay team in some prior Meets) ran against each other with Hensley beating Staab by 16 seconds.  Jeanne Daprano (W79) began her four day competition by winning her 800m in 3:50.97.Tell me that's not superb! Yikes. Exhausts me to think about it. My Piedmont Pacer teammate, Dot Sowerby (W83) a steadfast competitor completed her 800m in 5:29.67. Better she than me!   

Friday, July29 was my first day of competition, to start at 2 p.m.  Plenty of time to feed and water and walk the dog and stop to buy a more powerful cell phone charger that could support the WAZE app and not burn up the phone!  I found the stadium in plenty of time to check out the Finish line (no excuses this time!) I communed with the Aggie Bull Dog mascot sculpture and admired the immensity of the stadium and the hot, blue, track. (Seems like many of the NC tracks are blue except, of course, NCSU.) I suspect light blue also reflects and disperses heat better than heat absorbing red.

Unlike USATF Masters, where the bib worn on the back has the age group, USA Masters had the competitor number on each bib. To signify age group, they had colored tape assigned to each group and one applied the tape to the bib. It worked! 

At first, I tried to check in my javelin and discus to get it out of the way a day ahead of time.  However, the fellow tending to this task was out on the track setting up hurdles.  Ah, the dual duties of track officials! Eventually, after chatting with the friendly folks at the sign in table, I began warming up.  Always worrying that I won’t have enough energy (or breath) to finish the actual event, I rarely warm up  the same way twice.  Sometimes I lunge first then slowly jog,  going back and forth between movement and stretching and other times I just slow jog around until I breathe okay.  At lane assignment, we were told our numbers, one each hip,  and could then retrieve them from plastic packets on an adjacent table. Neat!

I saw Rose Green W78 warming up.  Getting ready to blow me off the track again.  She was taking her time, disciplined.  I did not see Jeanne Daprano out on the big practice field.  I think she practiced on the track, then found shelter under a tent. Finally, the ladies were led out to the track.  In my heat there were the three of us, plus Dot Sowerby.  I think I was in lane 5, Jeanne in 4 and Rose in 3.  Or, maybe not! (I recall watching Dot come in from the middle of the track!) My two AG competitors were to my left, for sure.  I stood in a standing start this time. No blocks and no hunching over. No burst of speed at the start planned – just stay stable until the gun.  There was a slight delay before we were set to go.  I had gotten about four steps before seeing Rose go running by around the first curve.  Yep, there she goes. I figured no chance in catching her but I would keep on chugging, trying to conserve but not get too slow because Jeanne was somewhere nearby.  Just prior to the last curve, along comes Jeanne. 

Aaargh!  Got to push.  I dredged up what I had and we ran adjacent to each other until Jeanne put in a surge about 30m from the Finish. I pushed too, and caught her for about a half second, then she gave another surge to cross the Finish, with me trailing. So close but the cookie slipped from my grasp. She really pushed me more than I would have otherwise run this monstrosity of an event.  I have never ever caught her in all the years we have met. (When I first ran against Jeanne, she was probably at the top of the 65-69 AG and I was at the bottom.  Same heat, but essentially different races. I would end up gasping and coughing from her track dust.) So, here we are again. In this heat (race and temperature heat!), I was the youngest in the AG and finished last in the AG.  Rose finished in 1:30.47, Jeanne in 1:34.59, and me in 1:34.76.  Dot came home in 2:25.37.  

One of the volunteers (aren't they terrific?) that day was the lady from the 2015 USATF Masters Indoor Championship event at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, NC. She was coordinator of the volunteers during that Meet.  A credit to the area. And here she was again -- volunteering to make our Meet even better. 

I was able to catch my breath in time to watch the W70-74 heat. My three non-club relay teammates, Mary Robinson (jogging just to do it, despite a  leg injury), Angela Staab and Barbara Hensley competed. Wouldn’t you know it –  going probably half speed, Mary still won.  Walking back towards the other end of the track, I saw Mary Hartzler (W67) come steaming toward the curve, with a substantial lead in her group, to go on to win.

The 400m was done. I could now go on to enjoy the rest of the Meet. Jeanne Daprano went to rest before returning for her 1500m later that day, winning it in an incredible 8:21.19. Where the heck does that energy come from?

Saturday, brain fog settled in and I had in my mind that the discus event started at eight.  So I got up early and rushed, getting there about 07:30, worried I was late for checkin. Well, only two fellows were there, one an official and the other a competitor.  The event actually started at nine. (Somehow Michigan start times usurped NC start times in my mind!).  I encountered William Rhoad, at the time considering going barefoot (that changed!) and Barbara Knight Warren (how many wraps on her lower appendages can she get?) getting ready for their long day. 

William Rhoad and Barbara Knight Warren

The various methods, spin, no spin, half spin, the discus competitors used were interesting.  The measuring methodology was tape. No one fouled within the circle, though a few throws fouled on or just outside of the line. I managed two or three throws that felt right and one foul.  Lots of work to be done here.

Out onto the field for the 100m warm up.  Rose was out there as was Mary Hartzler, who I saw jog up the huge hill at the far end.  Good heavens – the energy!    Toccata Murphy was also warming up, elegant in form as usual. 


 It was good to see her at the Meet, though she was not feeling 100%. Always a top competitor.  I missed seeing her teammate Kris Kazebee (W50-54) compete in the 400m, in 1:09.33. Jog, runner’s stretch, dunking duck walk, butt kicks and jogs. Forget the high knees!  A few very slow attempts to get the cricks out.

It was Rose Green, Jeanne Daprano, Dot Sowerby, and me in my heat. I used one starting block this time.  Keeps me from lurching and maybe a bit faster than using two blocks with knees that resist rising up and pushing forward. Rose took off, way ahead as expected. I just ran as fast as I could, anticipating Jeanne coming up on me. This time she didn’t.  

Mary Robinson jogged to just edge out Ann Carter. Mary Hartzler came in second in her 100m, pushing all the way.  Now it was time to watch Toccata.  She had a fast and full herd (W45-49) to run against.  Four of them came in under 14 seconds!  Toccata won in 13.19!
ATC Clovis Clark, Ann Carter, Linda Lowery before long jump
In the men’s 100m young (26) Ibegbu Lex-Jordan ran an impressive 11.75, but the wind was 3.2. Eric Hunter Johnson (48) won his AG in 12.05.  The most exciting race was that of M65-69, with Charles Allie versus Michael Kish. Tight to the very short end. Kish got it in 12.71 to Allie’s 12.78!   

Sunday. I watched some of the race walking. One fellow seemed to be just fast walking to my untrained eye. He must have been keeping proper form because he was not flagged. I did see one lady get the red flag.  In that heat (okay, it was earlier in the day so not quite hellish) what a strain to go round and round, seemingly endlessly, keeping perfect form. Another event I would not consider doing.  

 Today, the field event was javelin.  Some had beautiful, classic, form while others just slowly bounded up until the last few steps, slowed then heaved.  Most got some nice throws in.  A surveyor-like measuring mechanism was used for gauging distance.  I tried trotting up., Blah!  My last throw was just a stand and throw and it was no worse than my earlier attempts.   

Today was the 200m. It was just Rose, Jeanne, and me in our heat.  Results the same as in the 100m: Rose first, me and then Jeanne.  In the W70-74 group there were four in the heat and once again, Mary Robinson got to the Finish first, just edging Ann Carter.  That is a lot of “trotting” on a cruddy knee.  Of, course, Ann Carter also keeps competing with not 100% knees (and after long jumping etc.)  Angela and Barbara Hensley both ran over 55% age graded. 

 Mary Hartzler also ran second in her heat.  Then it was Toccata’s turn.  There were six in her heat and she took charge right at the start.  A pack was right on her, but she won in 26.76. (88.79% age graded.)  

I watched some of the men’s 200m.  In one event there was a Carolina Godiva  fellow I know from Wednesday night summer track meets as well as a Piedmont Pacer (this was the younger men). What to do? I cheered for both. Godiva’s Rick Pack (35), more of a distance runner, put on a surge at the end coming from way back but too late. However, he did pass the Pacer Thomas Dodds. In a subsequent race, a Pacer and a Carolina Track Club fellow raced each other for the lead.  The Pacer had it, and would have won, had he not raised his arms in a victory motion, allowing the other runner to cross the Finish first.  Oh, those premature victory salutes! Perhaps as bad as mistaking a line 10m from the Finish as the Finish (Michigan, ahem!)

Angela and I were signed up for Piedmont Pacers 4x100 and 4x400.  The 4x100 was to start at 12:30. It was dicey while we waited since we were not sure who else from the Pacers would be running it.  Jennifer VanDiver (49) showed up after Sue Murray (64), so it looked like we would be running in the 40-49 group. And what would Atlanta be running? Well, it looked like they, too, would be running in the 40-49 group, as was Florida’s CBC (Cute Black Chicks, they said) team in their dazzling gold shorts and black with gold lettering tops. Classy!  Well, hello third place, I think.  But, oh, wait! Mary Szymkowski (52) showed up and she was subbed for Jennifer after the appropriate paperwork was done. So, we would be running in the 50-59 group, along with the Flying Wilmas (with awesome Kris Kazebee, Carolina Track) and Sandy Triolo, so they must be running non-club. 

Just like in Michigan, there seemed to be a delayed start.  I could not tell what was going on but I saw our lead-off Sue , dancing at the start arera. Huh?  The delay continued.  The anchor next to me moved out and was talking to the runner in a far lane.  One official was in the grass area with a yellow flag (I think, yellow) whereas the main anchor area official had the white flag.  The main official told the chatting anchor to get back in her lane as they were  ready to start.  Then, I see Sue step off the track!  

 Aaargh! What is going on? I figure that is the end of the Pacer portion of the relay.  Maybe she was too nervous to run. Finally, Sue gets back on the track and thank heavens they started the relay!  Sue ran well, passing to Angela, who, this time, unlike in Michigan, was not running against a 35+mph wind, to pass to Mary who came around the bend to me. I almost fumbled her good pass to me (the nightmare of all relayers) but held on to finish last of the relay groups. (1:28.72).

Sue told us she had left the track before the start because her feet were burning. She went to pour water over her shoes. She was the second person to tell me they had felt the track heat through their spikes.  The first said she felt it rounding the curve during the 200m race.  Yes, running track in the hot South during the day can become uncomfortable. (Good thing William Rhoad wore shoes!)

They ran the men’s 4x800 next so the women had a breather before our 4x400.  Pacers Dixon Cook, Kevin Gobble, Bob Milan and Arthur Sterkenburg ran the 800 relay as club 40AG (two in their 40s, two in 60s) came in in 11:59.98 ( and two others This time, Jennifer would be running in our team so we would be in the 40-49 AG running against the Atlanta Track Club, running in the 60-69 AG.  I wanted to know in which position Jeanne Daprano would be running (hoping not to be competing against her) until it was pointed out that it might not be a problem since we would probably be lagging. (our team with two 70+ , one 63, and Jennifer, the kid) vs ATC’s one fast 79 year old (Jeanne), and three in their 60s (Carol Rhodes 67, Trenice Mullis-Dubow 62, Nonie Hudnall 66.)

Those of us running 3rd and 4th were puzzled over where we would actually be starting and where the passing zone was.  So we watched where the number two was to receive the baton.

Jeanne started it off along with Pacer Sue; they both had to run in lanes. Sue ran well but Jeanne came in to pass the baton to Carol first; Sue passed to Angela (who dislikes the heat and yet here she was running in 96 heat index).  Once these two rounded the turn they were eventually allowed to move to lane one which is where the rest of us ran.  Carol came in, passing to Trenice.  Trenice was well around the bend and part way up the back stretch when Angela passed to Jennifer, who turned on the burners and began closing in on Trenice, such that by the time she got to pass to me as the last runner, Nonie was not that far ahead.  She was around the bend so I had to run harder than I liked just to get near the far turn before she was half way down the home stretch.  The official told me to not look at the ground as I came around the bend (yes, I was looking down, running out of reserve).
 I did raise my head to see Nonie about 1/3rd of way from the Finish.  Those last 30 to 40 meters were excruciating for me. My legs turned to cement;  lungs and throat burned. It may have seemed as if I was running, but I was forcing, slowly, each leg to move as if in water.  The legs just about ground to a halt just before the Finish line. But I managed to get across.  ATC 6:53.05; Pacers 7:05.64.  Probably close to the worst a 400 has felt. Thank heavens for Sue and then Jennifer giving us older runners a needed boost.    

I was still gasping when the Piedmont Pacer men's team ran the 4x400 (just an easy walk in the park, Carl Dixon Cook had told me!) Two 70s and two 60s ran this one: Frank Smith, Bob Milan, Alan Irwin and Carl Dixon Cook.  A gasping time of 6:47.06. (The M70 USA team which included Maurice McDonald, Edward Daw, Salih Talib and Gary Patton came in in 5:58.30.) 

Thirst. Wow. I was so thirsty at the end. I had already consumed a can of Starbucks coffee on the way to the event. During the day: 16 ounces of beet juice, about 24 ounces of water, and an eight ounce can of Red Bull, as well as gobs of water in those little cups. I should have filled my water bottle with the terrific ice water supplied by the organizers before the relays so I could have more than a warm can of coffee waiting in my car.

As a side note, a friend had left behind some small bottles of energy drinks (Rock On), intended for staying awake while driving. I brought one along for my return home.  I found that it takes a good fifteen minutes to kick in – if it does! Dreadful tasting, to boot! I still had to slap my face to stay awake! Mountain Dew would have worked better!

Add Piedmont Pacers still there on hot track after relays . far right - sue with hot feet

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