Friday, August 8, 2014


I call it KS Hash

(short for Kitchen Sink)

Any/all vegetables at our meal counter, sautéed with eggs over easy.

So good.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 6 (and Eugene Half Marathon)

It's been a bad week for sleep, but I was hoping to run thru it.

Turns out, one night can be overcome. Three or four in a row; not so much.

I woke at 0300 after fitful sleep and two bathroom breaks; I'm tired but plenty hydrated. The sleep situation wasn't helped by the race expo and loud bands playing until at least 9:30pm. I will suggest to the race director that if he needs to start the race at the ungodly hour of 0600, he needs to shut things down EARLY the night before.

Halfway thru the warm up, I realized I left my water bottle back at the dorm. I begged a shot from a woman on a bike and thanked her profusely.

The goal was 1:35, about 7:15 mile pace. That puts me on track for a 3:19 marathon in 10 weeks.

My best runs to date have been 4 miles at that pace, or 8 miles at about 7:40. And at 3400' of altitude. Today, I'm at sea level, so it'll be interesting.

World's slowest national anthem singer!! OMG, you're killing me. And she muffed a bunch of the lyrics. Jeez, if you don't know the song, at least get thru it quickly.

Then Mary Wittenburg, chief of the NY Marathon and today's honorary starter, gives us a lengthy dissertation. I'm tired, anxious, and in no mood. Twice I say (and progressively louder), 'Fire the gun, please!"

We're off.

After a mile, I see the woman on the bike who gave me water, and I point at her. She responds in kind. Thumbs up!

A guy keeps passing me, falling back, passing me. I finally put him away on an incline...He's in a wheelchair.

I'm on pace until just past the hill at 8 miles, then the wheels come off. Cardio becomes an issue, and my hamstrings begin their usual complaints. I struggle to the 10 mile point, then decide it's not worth killing myself in a training race. Besides, I have three more hours of umpiring on the track today, followed by a 130 mile drive home. Time to throttle back.

I finish in 1:38 and change, and I'm ok with that. Better to save something now and get back into training with a shorter recovery. I figure the lack of sleep all week was worth at least two minutes, so I'm in the ballpark.

Crossing the line, I'm wiped out and grateful. As I'm bending over to catch my breath, I'm handed this:


No, it's not what you think (or what I thought). Yes, it's an unfortunately-shaped barf bag. I gotta keep that!

After breakfast, I'm in the lobby when Team Jamaican girls came past, so I asked about a swag trade. They said they had an extra backpack they'd like to sell.
(After the week began, I realized this was the perfect venue to swap track shirts for cool international ones. A friend was coming to town, so he brought some swag for me. Thanks much, Dan!)
I hoped to get some Jamaican gear for my daughter; after she saw Cool Runnings (the bobsled team movie), all she says now is "ya, mon."
The backpack was a nice one. I asked how much; I'd pay $30 max. The girl wanted $250. Uh, no thanks.
But I traded an ill-fitting Pre Classic shirt for a yellow t-shirt with the national logo; it'll fit Zoe just fine.

I didn't pursue the one athlete from Mozambique for a trade: his flag has an AK-47 on it.

Not interested.

Speaking of flags...

and medals...

The meet is anti-climactic: USA gets a 1-2 sweep in the 100m High Hurdles, and wins both 4 x 400 relays. Third place in the men's 4 x 4 goes to Jamaica, who lost out once more to Japan for second place.

Even more impressive: Japan took the baton in 3rd place and ran Jamaica down! Asia again...I would bet good money that these guys will do well in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
A Czech girl is battling for the high jump win. Her coaching entourage is standing right behind me, and these folks are committed. There is spittle all over my head.

American 1500m runner Alexa Efraimson has 'Fearless' written on her calf; I'm not sure if it's a tattoo or Sharpie. She was in good position with a lap to go; then she and an Ethiopian grappled in front of me right before the bell, and Alexa finished with a bloody shin. I noted the contact and told the referee that no advantage was gained; therefore, no foul. Sorry, Alexa.

Before the meet ends, I see the coach from the Bahamas; we spoke briefly a few days ago, and I told him I had some shirts he might like. Today, he brought back one of his own for me:

Very cool, mon.

I told him I'll mail him some others that I have. Looks like I have a new friend in the Caribbean.

Back to the room for a quick shower and gathering my things, then into the car headed for points east. Started drooping after an hour; it's been a long couple of weeks.

On the way, I was stopped along the Mackenzie River by a beaver dragging a huge limb across the highway. That's an omen...

Of what? I have no idea...

I love track.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 5

Getting down to the wire....two more days and it's back to real life.

Found in the dorm lobby....really, people?

Team Australia came loaded for bear (or kangaroo)...

The aforementioned adorable and continuously babbling Chinese toddler..

Very sad that this sign is even necessary...


4 x 400 relay heats: I got another super critical assignment. Stationed at the 200 meter mark, my main job was to call the order at that point, so the finish line people could properly line up the next runners from the inner lane to the outer.

The first runners stay in lanes for 400m.  
The second runners stay in lane for the first turn, then they can cut to Lane 1. When the runners pass the 200m mark, it's a mad scramble for the finish line people to determine which of the 3rd leg runners start on the inside (and then the rest line up to the outside in running order). So they had two of us at the 200m; one of us reading off the team names as they went past, and the other calling the names to the finish line on the radio.
Did fine, except I called Nigeria 'Jamaica'. The Giz, a much more experienced umpire, caught my mistake.
Very pressure-packed assignment; if the order is incorrect, that's a potential protest. And the runners go by so darned fast, there is zero room for hesitation.
Before we started the afternoon session, we were briefed on this assignment. The big debate was what we'll use for the line that determines the order we'd call out to the finish line.
I innocently asked, "What about the 200m starting line in Lane 1?" Seemed obvious to me, but the international judges had other ideas.
About an hour later, as we transition to the 4 x 400, I notice with very quiet glee that the international judges placed the mark right where I suggested, the 200m start in Lane 1.
I didn't say a word. I just smiled.
Preparing for the second heat, the volume in the stands behind me goes up by an order of magnitude. Team Canada is screaming their fool heads off to support their entry. I walk up to them and say, "You know you're only allowed four people in the relay, right?"
They look confused, until I starting cracking up. They got me back by nearly blowing out my eardrums during the race; so much so that the Giz and I had to move to the infield. Standing side by side, we couldn't hear each other shouting!
Men's 4 x 400 semi is next....I mentioned that the second runner will stay in lanes around the first turn, and then can cut to the inside. When the field comes around, I'm looking for the leader along the rail. But he's nowhere to be found...
Team Nigeria is still out in Lane 4, and he runs the entire 2nd lap out there!!! He added another 7-8 yards to his race, and didn't realize his mistake until he was ready to pass the stick. He finally looked and saw his teammate standing in Lane 1, so my guy had to take a sharp left turn in the last 10 meters. I guess I hadn't seen everything yet...
A tap on my shoulder. Two Italian runners, one male and one female. The male says in broken English that the girl ran the relay and dropped her hairband on the inside of the turn. I walked over and picked it up, and handed it to her while saying, "That'll be ten bucks."
She understood less English than her friend.
Women's 4 x 100m final: USA in a romp, Jamaica takes 2nd. During the victory lap, the Jamaicans stop right in front of me while someone else's national anthem plays. One of the girls hugs her teammates and squeals, "Thank you guys!! You got me a medal!!"
I love track.
Men's 4 x 100m: USA in a romp. Japan 2nd, Jamaica 3rd.
Let me reiterate: Jamaica, home of Usain Bolt, finished behind a team from Japan. I said it once, I'll say it again: don't bet against Asian track. These guys are good. 
A little diversion, because I'm not busy enough this week; I'm running the Eugene Half Marathon on Sunday morning to fine-tune my conditioning for the Portland Marathon in October. Since Sunday's race begins at 0600, and since no nearby coffee shops will be open when I rise at 0300, I filled a cup the night before and taped the hell out of it.
Then I walked to a friend's house, where I finally fell asleep at around 10:30pm. And woke up twice to flush the kidneys....I might be tired tomorrow, but I'll darn sure be hydrated!
More to come...and, oh yes;
I love track.

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 4

Beautiful morning: I took an easy 4 mile jog along the river. On the way back, several groups of African athletes were out walking, and they gave me big cheers in their native languages.

I love track.

At the venue; about 65 degrees and clear skies for the first event, the boy's 10,000m race walk.

Something I haven't seen before....a kid with k-tape....on his neck.

As soon as the race begins, the Hayward Field speakers being blaring that iconic song by Katrina and the Waves...

'Walking on Sunshine.'  Track people crack me up sometimes.

A Japanese kid bolts out at the gun and has 10 yards on the field in one lap. I'm not very interested until I see the time at 400m: 1:30.

This kid is going at 6 minute mile pace!  And it looks like he's....walking.

(ok, that's really bad...sorry, I haven't been sleeping well).

He's covering ground at my 400m sprint interval pace. He hits a mile in 6:16, then 5k in 19:32,  and I completely lose interest. So demoralizing to watch.

Here's the Board of Death:

This is where judges record infractions during the race. Three strikes and you are unceremoniously yanked from the track.

In second place is Diego Garcia, who is not only a great competitor but also a US Naval Base in the Indian Ocean as well as a now-defunct emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle. In my Navy time, I hadn't the pleasure of a visit, though a rock in the Indian Ocean near the equator was never high on my list of desired vacation spots. 

Our Japanese warrior leads wire to wire and finishes in 39:27. I really, really hate him.

The big difference among track events: runners walk as soon as they cross the finish line, and walkers break out into a run. I guess the grass is always greener...

Frank Fredericks from Namibia presented medals today... 4 Olympic silver medals of his own. Safe to say that I've had a man-crush on him for 20 years: classy guy, good looking, built very muscular yet lean.

An Egyptian girl is in the shot put ring, with no exposed skin except for her hands and face. I'm glad it's not very hot.

In 1992, Hassiba Boulmerka of Alergia won the Olympic 1500m race: afterward, she recounted getting death threats for training in shorts, yet the same people proclaimed Algeria's greatness when she won.

Just sayin'...

A Spanish kid crosses the track to talk to his triple jump coach; I notice the boy looks a whole lot like Nicolas Cage in the movie Valley Girl...

Asia is developing some incredible track athletes; ever since Liu Xiang won the Olympic High Hurdles in 2004 and became the Chinese version of Michael Jordan, that entire region has burst onto the scene. Case in point: China, China, Japan get all the medals in the men's long jump.

Today, in the 4 x 100m relay heats, I'm giving directions on the track to a kid from Botswana when I take a step backward without looking...

and nearly get cut in half by a Chinese runner who did one last warm-up sprint. Probably 6'1" and 180 pounds of solid sprinter muscle. I thanked him for not knocking me over; he nodded and smiled at me.

I love track. 

China wins their heat, with Thailand in second.

In the next heat, the US guys run to a very fast sub-40 second heat. And finish 2nd to the Japanese kids who run the 6th fastest all-time relay.

I think I'll brush up on my Pacific Rim knowledge. We're all going to need it.

Women's 100m final; the favorite is American Kaylin Whitney. She's also the youngest in the field, and maybe a bit nervous, too; she does the mambo while set in the blocks and the starters fire the gun twice.

That's not good. Any movement while set in the blocks is a false start, DQ. And thank you for playing.

Except that 10-15 starters and international officials have a huddle, then decide that she didn't gain an advantage. She's reinstated with a warning.

Lots of catcalls from the crowd who suspects partisan politics. Remember, though, the international officials are the ones who make the call, not the US folks.

Whitney wins in the restart. I suspect a handful of protests now, but the fat lady has sung.

A Japanese kid gets third in the high jump. Yes, Asia is on the rise, and in many areas.

Seen on a nearby University of Oregon campus building:

I love track.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 3

Very hard to write up race violations when it's pouring rain; the heat sheets and incident cards turn into sloppy oatmeal when wet.

Fortunately, things improved later in the day...nice shot showing the flags of the 200 countries represented.

Brought some snacks in case I became hungry...

Umpire briefing under the stands before the events began...

The heat sheets are a source of valuable information. For example, you get to see some world class names:
  • Sri Lanka's Himasha Eashan Waththakankanamg
  • Norway's Elmo Savola (my daughter will love this one)
  • Nigeria's Ejowvokoghene Divine Oduduru
  • Nigeria's Praise Oghenefejiro Idamadudu
  • Madagascar's Avotriniaina Rakotoarimiandry
  • Jamaica's Nathon Allen (come on: who spells 'Nathan' with an 'O?')
Forgive my stereotyping: everyone from Czechoslovakia and Croatia looks and sounds like a drill sergeant! The coaches, the parents...they seem accustomed to combat, just from their tone and demeanor...reminds me of my native New Jersey.

I'm working on a very experienced umpire crew, and it shows in their nicknames: Bo, Giz, the Clark Brothers (one black, one white), Festus, Mooseman, Goose, and Numbnuts. Maybe someday I'll rate a similar moniker...hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Facts about the Steeplechase that you may not know:
  • The race is 7.5 laps with 35 jumps. That  means no jumps on the first half lap, so the runners go around the water jump the first time, and the barrier at the beginning of the homestretch is put in place only after the runners pass it once.
  • The barrier just beyond the finish line is longer than the other movable barriers. This is the first jump they'll encounter; since the field will still be bunched up, the barrier spreads over four lanes instead of three.
During the women's steeple heats, a very well-dressed coach is screaming at his runner, "VENGA, VENGA, VENGA!!!" Easy to say, harder to do.

I'm at the start of the 200m, and there are lots of heats. Before one particular race, the Canadian team contingent in the bleacher behind me is cheering for a teammate about to run. During a brief intermission, the Jackson 5's "A,B,C" is piped over the loudspeakers, and one of the Canadian kids is singing.

He's singing, all right. Horribly. Cringe worthy.

I turn to him with a big smile and say, "Dude, you are TONE deaf!"  He turns red, and his buddies roar.

The kid says, "My mom tells me I sing well."

I reply, "She's SUPPOSED to say that."

Too fun.

Later, I see something I don't think I've ever seen: a Kenyan sprinter.

Then I see an unfamiliar jersey name: come I didn't know that was Greece? Because my college didn't have fraternities, just one big dormitory...

A French girl misses 3x in the pole vault and is done. Then she spends the next 5 minutes shaking hands with every pole vault official. Class act.

Aussie girl is in 4th place in the PV, down to her last attempt. She clears the bar and parties HARD on the way down, lots of fist pumping and screaming. Something very cool about seeing someone pull it out when their back is up against the wall.

She then clears the next height on her first jump. Her previous celebration now pales in comparison to this one.

Then, to be redundant, she clears the NEXT height, and again on her first jump. Two PRs in two jumps in the biggest meet of her life. She is seriously losing her mind on the descent, as is the Australian contingent in the adjacent stands. She bounds out of the pit, screaming her fool head off, and is about to hug everybody in the bleachers, when....

She is abruptly stopped dead in her tracks by a very loud and insistent official, who notices that the mens' 400m final is about to start. Yep, I knocked her from exhilaration to 'oh crap' in a split second, and it showed on her face. The crowd behind me busted up laughing.

Later, when a different official is in that location, another girl clears a height and runs across the track in the middle of the 3000m. The bigger problem is that the cameraman follows, dragging 50 feet of cable across 8 lanes. During the race! Fellow umpire Bob lays down the law and quickly restores order.

Maybe the starters will let us carry their pistols for such incidents...

Fort Worth native Desiree Freier gets a national record in the vault on the way to second place. At five foot nothing and a very low center of gravity, she looks like she'd be more at home in a West Texas backfield as a fullback. Nice diamond earrings, though.

Great pole vault competition all around. Lots of pressure and lots of heights cleared.

Women's 800m; there is a runner from Iceland, of all places. Not exactly a hotbed of track, but maybe that's changing. Except the girl takes it out in 56 freakin' seconds, then fades like an old t-shirt. As the field comes off the last turn, I see a yellow flag come up...not sure why, but it's time for me to move to the next assignment.

I'm hustling thru the turn when I pass the starters heading in the opposite direction. They have farther to go than I do, and the next race won't begin without them. So I smile, throttle down, and enjoy a leisurely walk.

Once I set up on the home stretch for the 3000m, I notice Ms. Iceland walking slowly down the track with a smudge on her forehead. Evidently she stepped on the curb and went down, hence the yellow flag.

In the 3000m, it's Mary Cain and two or three Africans with 200 meters to go. Then, from across the track, I see a lot of forearms and body-checking. The result is that Ms. Cain busts out of the box and blisters the last half lap on the way to a final 400m in 63 seconds and a sub-9:00 clocking.

Then a Russian girl comes from behind to win the javelin by six inches on her last throw and bawls her eyes out. Remember what I said about last minute heroics?

Yep. One happy boy...

I love track.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 2

An early morning for me; I need to do my modified speed workout during this trip, and I'm tapering for the Eugene Half Marathon on Sunday. So it's 800 meter repeats down Agate Street at 0530.

A little later, more sights from the dining hall:

 (that's Czech Republic)

Had to include the shot above, as an homage to my place of employment: this is Tom M, a world-renowned starter of track events (think starter's pistol). I saw him at breakfast and had to ask....

Seems he, a born and bred Boston lad, was in Eugene years ago for a meet and ended up in a pub near 13th and Kincaid, probably ordering a 'paw-tah'  (translation: Black Butte Porter). The barkeep, noting the bloodlines of a long suffering Red Sox fan, promptly comped him a shirt. I shall have to buy him a pint...Tom was also the finish line marshal for the Boston Marathon on the day of the bombing.

I think I'll have to buy him TWO pints...

Who else do I see in Eugene? Burke Selbst, a physical therapist from Bend (and fellow Jersey boy). Burke worked at the 2012 Olympic Trials here, and is now on the short list for major US championships.

Here's Ian Dobson, Olympic Trials finalist (and possibly the slowest person in his family if you count his wife, Julia Lucas).

Among other things, he's now a coach and is heavily involved in the Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon; I asked him to spot me a couple of minutes during the race as a favor.

He's probably 6'4", so how am I taller in that picture?

In the decathlon, there is American Harrison Williams. The kid is so good, he already had a train station named after him.

(ok, so it was the other Harrison Williams: the NJ senator who was convicted of taking bribes and sentenced to prison. The Amtrak station in Edison NJ was named after him, then renamed after he was sent to Club Fed).

The events are in full swing, and the bleachers are raucous. Which means, of course: vuvuzelas.  Lots and lots of them.

God help me.

In the 1500m heats, brave John Aquino from the island of Guam finishes 30 seconds behind the winner, yet still kicks home proudly. YOU try training in Agana's South Pacific humidity.

And now, some track and field math:

5 + 2 = ?
3 + 3 = ?

In both cases, the answer is 12.

If a final will have 12 runners, each of the two semi-finals will have the top 5 in each heat as automatic qualifiers, plus the next two fastest (12 total). If there are three heats that will narrow down to a 12-person final, the first three in each heat will automatically advance, in addition to the next three fastest (also 12).

And you wondered why runners are so smart; with this kind of convoluted arithmetic, it's because they HAVE to be.

Leaving the dorm just prior to the evening events, this is what I see in the lobby:

College kids are the same all the world 'round.

A girl from Sverige (Sweden) fails to clear a height in the high jump and spends the next 10 minutes sobbing on the ground next to her coach. One of her teammates misses at the next height and simply shrugs her shoulders.

In the last sprint heat, there's a kid from the Cook Islands: those islands are named after Capt James Cook of the British ship Endeavor, who also discovered Australia's Great Barrier Reef by running into it. Great explorer and lousy navigator...

The university's brass ensemble plays for the opening ceremony, then stays on the field to help out during the 10,000m. Runners in any event longer than one lap are routinely treated to a rhythmic clapping on the home stretch, and tonite the band plays a 30 minute composition that adds a whole lot of bass drum when the leader finishes each lap. Very cool.

Two Japanese runners lead out the 10,000 and build a huge lead at the halfway point in 14:35. Then the trailing 8-man African Train dumps coal in the engine and closes the 100m gap in less than one mile! Holy cow, these guys were bringing it....a lot of 67 second laps with some 64's thrown in, the winner runs a 4:15 last mile and looks like he had more in the tank.

A girl from Ecuador was DQ'd in the 100 for a false start. For the life of me, I couldn't see it on the replay. Her protest was upheld, so she was allowed to run a solo heat at the end of the night. One runner in eight lanes, and 11.77 gets her into the next round.

For that final event, the crowd pulled her home in 11.28, fastest qualifier. Sometimes it's good to question authority.

Oh, and I wrote her up for a lane violation, but I was overruled. We were all a bit punchy by then.

I love track.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Junior World Track and Field Championships - Day 1

Here at Hayward Field, home of Nike, the official gear for the first US-based world championship since 1996, is provided by....


Interesting. adidas (lowercase, if you please) is the main sponsor for international track championships, so Nike had to swallow this one. All the same, it's very odd to be on this hallowed track while wearing something other than the Swoosh.

At the Monday morning practice meet, it's time to work out all the bugs. Five events, with world leaders in each event according to the announcers. Problem is, every kid looked suspiciously like a Eugene teenager...

but with apologies to Allen Iverson, "we're talkin' 'bout PRACTICE."

In the dining hall, a Chinese girl, maybe 18, eating a plain hamburger bun. With chopsticks.  

And here's her friend...a bit overdressed for breakfast, one might say.

As is my little tradition, I arrive at the venue well before we are due, just so I can inhale the atmosphere of a peaceful, quiet track.

Somebody sprung for some nice, shiny new hurdles...

Since they will be obsolete after this meet, will they let me take one home for my living room?

Other stuff hidden under the bleachers...


Nice, dry warmup track beneath the West Grandstands...

Yes, those are gymnast rings....don't ask me what they are doing here!

Near the steeplechase pit, a cameraman has his gear set to capture the field events. I ask what network he's working for.

He shrugs. Huh?

No really, I say. "Who is broadcasting the event?"

He replies, "I don't know."

He's simply the raw materials supplier. A broker of some sort will determine where his video feed goes. The uncomplicated Amish way of life is looking better and better.

During one of the practice events, I notice all the media and meet operations folks on the infield, computers and electronics everywhere. What happens then?

Time to water the lawn!!!!! Those people moved a lot faster than I thought they could.

Other sights around the track:

Me and the Ugandans; their PRs are probably a bit tighter than mine...

Teams getting accustomed to the track:

One of the 200 or so flag poles....



In the cafeteria, an adorable Chinese boy of about two years, walking around with a piece of fruit and talking to everyone.

Irish athletes in the dorm elevator carrying big bags of ice. I asked, "sore muscles?" They said, "no, dead bodies." Not nervous at all, those three..

After the practice meet, I go over to the IAAF press conference just for kicks. And who do I see there?

One of my childhood heroes, Sebastian Coe...the only person to win back to back Olympic Gold Medals in the 1500m race. I first watched him in 1979 when he destroyed the mile world record and a very experienced field. He muffed the 1980 Olympic 800m, his best event, and was dubbed a failure by the British press. He came back in the metric mile and ran like a man possessed, sprinting the last 100m in 12.1 seconds.

Today, he was standing next to me. That's one big one off the bucket list!!

Oh, and the next guy to walk past? Sergey Bubka, first man to pole vault 20 feet, and holder of the world record for over 20 years.

I love track.