The first track meet of the year! As I wrote in the earlier post about this USATF Pacific Association Championships, I was to assess my fitness level in today’s events, 1,500m and 800m, and use it as benchmark to train for the rest of the summer. As it turned out, I ran both events in PR and could not be happier at this early stage in the track season. Excellent start! The meet itself was a little slow, due to its size (500 competitors) and the organizer’s willingness to accommodate elite athletes’ requests, who were trying to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Trials. There was one World Record for women’s masters 10,000m. A 70-year old Marie-Louise Michelsohn ran 46:38.5 and bettered the previous record by over 30 seconds. Also, there was an Olympian Stephanie Brown Trafton who competed in Discus and threw 208′ 2″, which looked ridiculously far from where I was sitting. So, it was a fantastic meet to be part of, from my own competition perspective, but also was a great opportunity to witness some of the world-class athletes’ performance.
The first event was 1,500m at 11:30 am. I arrived at the track with some of the team members at around 10:00 am. We all picked up our bibs and sat down with the team. The track meet was already in progress with steeple chasers tackling the distance, hurdles and the water pit. It was a great running weather for them, but for us sitting and waiting, it was a bit too cool without the sun keeping us warm. I went to check in for 1,500m and headed to warm up at 10:30 with a teammate, Thomas Setser, who was also running 1,500m and 800m, but in the Open division. After the usual warm-up and drills, I went to bathroom and I was ready.
I did not know any of the competitors. After a few pleasantries, all 18 runners lined up for one big heat. I tried to remind myself of sticking with the pace, 77-78 seconds a quarter for as long as I can, and see what happens. On your mark. Bang! A couple of runners jumped out fast and I started to follow, quickly realizing it was too fast for my pace. I slowed down and settled into a comfortable breathing. First quarter 73 seconds. I slowed down even more. I was in the third place then, but shortly someone else passed me. With my breathing rapidly becoming heavier, I tried to focus on my running. 78 seconds the second quarter. Good. Just keep it up. Less than 2 laps to go. Look ahead and keep the pace. In the distance, not sure where I was, I hear the bell. The leader started the bell lap. As I passed the 1,200m, gasping for oxygen, I did not bother getting my split on my Garmin but looked ahead to close the gap with the third place runner. I saw my team mates calling my name and taking photos, but this was not the time or place to try looking good! I swung my arms to lift my legs, being filled with lactic acid with every stride, and strode into the home stretch. No way to catch the guy and I finished fourth, but in 4:44.50. That’s a PR by smashing four seconds! Woo-Hoo!!
Cooled down with Thomas who did not run too well. We talked about switching our focus and relaxing for 800m. The subsequent events, namely hurdles, delayed the schedules quite a bit. They decided to switch directions to get favorable wind for the elite hurdlers. While I waited, I walked around with my camera, trying to find interesting subjects and actions. I found it a good way to relax and keep my legs loose. My team mates were running 400m and 100m. Also, long jump. It is difficult to take a good photo when the subject is moving very fast. Sometimes I get lucky, but a lot of times I end up with photos with the subject out of focus. I would love to learn how to take great action shots.
Since I had already warmed up earlier for 1,500m, I did not waste my energy warming up too much for 800m. I did a few laps and some dynamic stretch and striders. They divided Masters runners in two heats. I was in the first heat. When we were called, I saw the guy who took the third place in 1,500m, Greg Hales, but did not see the first or second place finishers. Instead, I saw a tall, fast-looking guy with more of a sprinter’s build. I bet he was a good half miler. The officials went over the rules and put us in dedicated lanes. I was in Lane Five. Three steps behind the green line. On your mark. Bang! Confident from the earlier race, I upped my pacing a little bit but no particular time in mind. After cutting in, I was leading the pack until the third corner. Two guys, the tall fast-looking one, Steve Yatson and Greg, passed me. Fine. I followed them behind 6 feet or so. On the homestretch, there was a wind. So, I drafted behind the two guys. Perfect. I did not look at my Garmin or the official watch but heard the announcer saying the leader ran 63 seconds the first lap. Bell rang. The race starts now. I closed the gap a little bit and was at the foot of Greg who was just behind Steve. In the backstretch, I felt strong and decided to be patient until the homestretch. I hung with the leaders around the third corner and just as soon as I finished the last corner, I let it rip. 90m to go. I passed both of them. I am now big time sprinting. I felt the wind pushing my upper body back against my formidable effort, and I resisted it by exerting even harder. 60m to go. I heard the crowd going wild. I saw Steve in the corner of eye, to my left. I don’t remember if I was breathing or what I was looking at. My lungs were hurting. My legs, heavy. O2 debt. 30m. Steve passed me. I hung on. 20m. I am losing balance. 10m. Barely sprinting, but acceleration just carried me through the finish line. Both hands on my shaky knees, now I’m definitely breathing, gasping for air. 2:15.32. Second place. Another PR! I shook hands with Steve, Greg, and others, all still breathing heavily but relieved that the race was over.
Overall, it was a great day for me. No complaints whatsoever, other than the big delay in the schedule. Even the sun came out. Now that I have benchmark for these two events, I can set target for the next two meets and train for them. Rick, VP of the team congratulated me for the perfect strategy in 800m. Strategy… Yeah, I can call it that. After the race, I stuck around a while and photographed other events my team mates were competing in. Around 5pm, though, I picked up my age-group medals and I was ready to go home and enjoy the rest of the evening, off the track.