Western States Invitational Race Report
Phew, I’ve been busy and have not found time to keep up my blog. I have materials to write at least three posts, so hopefully, I can share my stories in the next few days. Roughly one month after the USATF PA Championships in San Mateo, I competed in 800m and a Mile at Western States Invitational on June 29th and 30th, held at University of California Davis where I did my undergraduate study over 20 years ago. It was nice to visit the campus, though lots have changed since I graduated.
Since it gets quite warm during the day, the organizers limited the competition to mornings and evenings, which helped my events be spread over two days. 800m was at 6:30 pm on Friday and a Mile was at 9:00 am on Saturday. This, as well as the warm weather, definitely helped me run a PR in the Mile.
Cool Friday afternoon, I set off to Davis on Amtrak, which was a 70-minute scenic ride from Richmond BART, equipped with wifi. After quickly checking into a hotel and dropped off my overnight bag, I changed into much comfortable clothes in the 85F degree weather and walked over to the track. At 5:00 pm, a couple of field events were already under way. My teammates, Andy Bundy and Allen Eggman, were starting with High Jump and Pole Vault. Since this was a regional Masters meet, the atmosphere was of super laid-back and it felt more like a practice than competition. I picked up my bib and chatted with Andy for a while before I leisurely moved on to warm up. Because of the warm temperature, I did not feel like warming up much but did the usual drills to avoid injuries. 800m was the first track event of the meet. I was not seeing any runners until, say, 20 minutes before the event, and when they called, about 15 runners showed up. One of them was Frank who was turning 70 in a couple of weeks. After exchanging times we each were expecting, he told me that he had an American age-group record in this event and some other American and World age-group records. Very impressive. He said he wanted 2:20-ish that day! The organizers had not prepared heat assignment (did I tell you this was a very relaxed meet?), so we divided us up into slow heat and not-so-slow heat. Except for one 20-something girl, I was looking pretty young there. After the slow heat, it was our turn. A month ago, I ran 2:15.3 after a 1,500m, so my goal was sub 2:15. 65-second first quarter and 70 or faster second quarter, or something like that. Very relaxed, though not necessarily well conditioned (a few pounds heavier than two months ago), I leaned forward at the mark. I forget that we don’t have a ‘set’ between ‘on your mark’ and ‘go’ in non-sprint events. Consequently, I usually don’t have a good start. First 200m, 31 seconds. Again, I don’t know how to pace myself. Slowing down to 64 something at the first quarter, I was leading the heat, aware Frank was right behind me. As much respect as I had to his American and World records, though, I wasn’t going to let him pass me. Soon, I wasn’t hearing his foot steps and felt strong in the last 200m. I ran the second quarter in 68 something to make it 2:13.7. A PR! Beer was going to taste good later. Frank had to stop at 600m or so, because he hurt his hamstrings… Hopefully, it’s not serious, since he was looking forward to competing at Pre Classics in Eugene in a few weeks.
After a couple of beer and nice pub dinner followed by Baskin Robins that happened to be right across the street from the Irish pub, de Veres, I had a good night sleep for the Mile race on Saturday.
Despite the good rest, my body and legs felt quite heavy when I got to the track in the 70F degree morning. Andy was already there, warming up for his 400m Hurdles and Long Jump. I had a few sips on the hotel coffee that wasn’t cooling off as fast as it would have, back home in San Francisco. I had eaten a banana before I left the hotel, so I wasn’t hungry. When I started to warm up, I was seeing quite a few runners, unlike the night before. And there were tall, fast looking folks, too. Davis and Sacramento area have a few good running clubs, and I saw many wearing yellow Golden West uniform. I was glad to see them, because a good competition can help me run faster, especially longer event like Mile. I saw Frank and his left hamstring covered with bandage. Yikes! He was obviously not running the Mile. There were about 25 folks for the Mile. Once again, we made up slow and not-so-slow heats, and the slow heat went first, then us.
As soon as the gun went off, four or five guys took off and I followed. But after 150m or so, it was obvious that their pace was a bit faster than mine, if I wanted to pace myself. So I let them go and I clocked the first quarter in 75 seconds. Then, Jim M50, whom I ran in San Mateo last month, passed me just after the second corner in the second lap. I followed him, not letting him get away. The rest was sort of blur, except I passed Jim in the last 200m to make it 5:06.37. Cool. Another PR!
This was my first Western States Invitational and I thoroughly enjoyed the track meet. Next year, I hope to come back with a bit more time so I can enjoy the town of Davis, as well as other events in the meet.