This past Saturday, San Francisco Track & Field Club hosted Pride Meet at Cox Stadium on San Francisco State University campus. This was the fourth year the Club put together this event, but this was my first Pride Meet. I had been involved in the organization of this event, but thanks to Drew and all the volunteers, I was able to focus on my events and do very well in each event.
It was a typical San Francisco summer morning with a thick fog coverage that kept the temperature down. The weather forecast suggested it would reach only 61F that day. I covered myself with a long-sleeve T and a sweat shirt, then left for Andy’s house at 6:05am. I had gone out to Front Runners’ event the night before and only went to bed at after 2:00am that morning, so it was tough getting up. We got to the track a bit after 7:00am. Michael did a fantastic job recruiting volunteers, so there was not much for me to do but check in and relax a bit before my event. I had decided not to run 5,000m, so I had time until 10:00am, which was plenty of time to talk to team mates and other participants.
This was my first time running 800m since high school. 800m was not my event even in high school, so I don’t remember what was my time then. From the 400m and 1,500m races I ran in Vancouver, I thought I could run in around 2:20, which is 70 seconds per lap. Last couple of times at the track practice, I tried to feel the pace, though I was not totally comfortable about me nailing the pace. I also read a few articles about how people run 800m. From what I read, runners usually run the first lap tad faster than the second. So, I thought I would try 70 sec in the first lap and see how I can manage in the second. The problem with running different distances, though, is I risk screwing up my pace. This summer I trained hard for 5K and 10K, so I know my pace for these races. But the shorter distances are pretty new to me and my pace is largely unknown. Anyway, I had my target and tried to stick with it.
I started the warm-up one hour before the race. I spent about 30 minutes jogging, doing dynamic stretching and striding. It was a cool morning, so I spent longer jogging. There must have been about 10 people running the 800m. I knew, from working on registration, that there was a guy, Terry, in my age group who ran 2:02 in the World Masters. But he decided not to run 800m. Other than that, I did not know anybody else other than my team mate Bryant. As I got to the starting area, I put on an extra pair of socks and spikes, then I did a few strides. I was ready. At this point, I was still trying to remember what the pace felt like. After pleasantry to fellow competitors, the officials lined us up and the gun went off. My watch this time worked and I needed to know the first 200m split. It was about 30 seconds. Too fast! I thought I slowed down and let Casey pass me before I got to 400m. I ran 61 or 62 sec the first 400m. I was in trouble. The next 400m was difficult. Casey kept on going (he knew what he was doing) and the gap widened because my pace went down quite a bit. 300m more to go. My legs were getting heavier. 200m more to go. I was grasping for air. 100m to go. I was running with my heavy legs and arms. I heard people cheering for me as I dragged my entire body toward the goal. I finished and died. Total novice mistake! But the time was 2:15.82! So, I ran 61 or 62 sec in the first 400m and 74 or 73 sec in the second. I don’t know when I will run 800m next, but with everything remained constant, I should do 65 and 70 to finish at 2:15 again. Lesson learned.
I ran 400m in Vancouver, so this was much less worrying. Also, this is sprinting and it only goes around the track once. My time was 58.8 in Vancouver, so I’d be happy if I could repeat it. It was scheduled at 11:00am, which overlapped with Discus Throw. Luckily, there were quite a large group of Discus throwers and I asked them to put me in the second flight.
I did not spend too much time warming up, because I had run 800m not long ago. I just tried to stay warm by stretching lightly, walking, and jogging.
Terry was in this one, and Sean, Bryant, and Marcus were also in the same heat. I put on the spikes again. When the track was ready, I grabbed the starting block. As I did it in Vancouver, I practiced the block start a couple of times. Although 400m is a sprinting, block start does not make that much difference at my level. It was more of vanity than anything else… Anyway, the gun went off and I came off the block smoothly (I think). I was in the Lane 3 and Terry was in Lane 4. I saw Terry took off very fast and kept going. I knew his recent mark was 52, so I wasn’t even trying to keep up with him. I saw another guy, Brien, way in a outer lane, who was also going fast. I didn’t know who he was and wanted to see if I can catch him. After I turned the third corner, I thought he was still within a reach. But as I came into the fourth corner and started to lose my speed, I knew he was running too fast for me to catch and he finished after Terry. I came in third but the time was 58.30, which was my new PR by 0.2 seconds! Pretty happy about that.
This was the event I really wanted to try this year but I didn’t practice much. After I had gone to our Throw Clinic in April and watched Youtube videos a few times, maybe I did two or three practice. This event was also canceled in Vancouver, so my motivation to practice was down. It would have been great to be able to do a turn and throw, but I decided to do a standing throw. In my flight, there must have been about 15 or more throwers. Aaron, James, Andy, Dave and Allen were in the same flight. A lot of throwers looked pretty good with a nice form, turn and trajectory. There were maybe three or four throwers like me, looking like a novice. Anyway, I tried to remember all the tips that I learned and hope I could throw as far as I could. After a few practice throws, the competition started. I was the third thrower. I had four chances to register a good throw. In the first throw, I focused on ‘Release and Block’ and ‘Keeping the arm behind my hip’. I threw 23.78m. Hmmm, way too short of 30m that I thought I might be able to throw… I watched others throw but I could not learn much, because they were totally at different levels from me. The second, third and fourth throws did not go as far as the first one. Allen and Andy said that I had a good technique but needed to learn some turns to be able to throw farther. Totally agreed.
As Discus kind of dragged into the afternoon, I was having second thought about Mile. Not sure if it was the 800m and 400m that took a lot out of me, or the lack of sleep the night before, or a lot of waiting time in Discus. Also, I had not eaten much after breakfast, either. When I was finishing up Discus, it was too late to eat something substantial. Bryant offered to pick up Subway’s sandwich and he did pick one up for me, but I did not eat until after Mile. I ate and drank some energy bar and drink that came in the goodie bag, which Aaron did a fantastic job of getting stuff from various donors.
Before I started to warm up, I went to the massage table and got some rub-down for about 10 minutes or so. That helped me relax a bit and start warming up. By then, the sun was on the track and bringing the temperature up. I jogged and did a few strides before I put on my spikes.
My target was around 5:08. I had run 1,500m in 4:48 in Vancouver. The pace was 76 – 77 seconds per lap. Andy said Phil’s friend, Daniel, runs Mile in sub 5:00. Brien who ran 400m in 56 sec was there, too. Also, Phil had said that there was someone who was going for an American record, though we did not who that was and how fast s/he was going to run. As we were lining up to start, I learned who he was. He was older and shorter than I was and sounded experienced. After a minute of debate on where the start line was, we were ready and the gun went off. Immediately, Daniel took off and Tom chased after him. I chased them for 150m or so but decided the pace was too fast and let them lead. The first 200m split was 37 sec or so. Still too fast. As Daniel and Tom went on, I slowed down a bit and passed the first 400m in about 75. Brien passed me and pulled me the next 400m, but he started to slow down at about 800m, so I passed him. By then, I saw Daniel and Tom about 200m ahead and Tom caught up with Daniel. I had no energy worrying about who, between those two, was leading the race and focused on my race and my pace. During the third lap, I heard Brien following me. I started to feel my legs heavier and so was my breathing. I heard people cheering on me around the third and fourth corners. 500m more to go. At that point, Daniel was still ahead of Tom and they looked like they were less than 200m ahead. I wondered if I could catch them if I sprinted. But I was out of gas by the time I went into the last lap. Though I tried my best to catch them, they were too far ahead and I did not have any legs left. I no longer heard Brien but wondered if he would be blasting by me, which probably helped me run faster and finish before Brien, which I did. It was a hard race and the time was 5:15.36. Slower than expected but I was OK with it considering I had done three other events earlier in the day. I congratulated Daniel, Tom and Brien, as we all tried to recover our breaths.
I did less practice on Shotput than Discus before the meet, but I did compete in Vancouver, so I knew better. In Vancouver, I threw 8.51m, so that was my target. There must have been 20 or 25 throwers in this event. Andy, Rick, Sean and Craig also competed in this event. Among Andy, Sean and I, we weren’t sure which shot to use: We could not tell whether one was heavier than the other. After trying to figure that out by feeling them, Andy went to weigh one and came back with the right one, which felt heavier than the other one that we were comparing with…
A lot of throwers, most of them Senior competitors, looked pretty good. They looked strong and they looked like a Shotputter, compared to us. They had much smoother turns and their shots went higher and farther than ours.
In Vancouver, I threw six times and my throw improved every time except for the sixth throw. Curtis was there with me coaching, and I think that was a big help. But this time, he wasn’t there and nobody really said anything about my throw. Also, we only got four throws this time. My first throw was 8.13m, and Andy threw exactly the same after me. Slightly feeling tired, the next two throws were 7-something. There were too many throwers to know who were in my age group, so I had no idea how I was doing against others. In the last throw, I focused on making an explosive kick and strong push with my arm behind the hip. Also, a grunt. It seemed, from the Vancouver experience, letting the big air and sound out of my lungs and mouth helped, so I did that as well and I got 8.62m. Another PR! Very good.
After the five events in six hours, I was exhausted and ready to call it a day. Aaron, Andy and Dave think I should try decathlon. As much as it sounds colossus and macho, I could not imagine doing another five events the next day. And of course, events like Hurdles and Pole Vault are off limits to a marathoner like me.
Anyhow, Pride Meet was a good success for the team and for myself personally. We had just under 100 participants and all 19 events were carried out as scheduled. I had 5 PRs (3 of them were first time) that produced 2 Gold, 2 Sliver and 1 Bronze medals. Now that my track season was done, I can have some rest and start training for the Half Marathon in October. It’s been a great track season and cannot wait till the next season.
* All photos except the Pride Meet banner photo, courtesy of Alex Agbay. Pride Meet banner photo, courtesy of David Serrano.