Saturday, February 20, 2016

2016 Millrose Games

After my sweet 18 miler this morning, I cleaned myself up and headed down to Recharge for some TLC on my somewhat unhappy legs.

The timing was deliberate: at 1pm, the Millrose Games from NYC were on television. So i set up shop with some Normatec compression boots and relaxed for a couple of hours.

Of course, some silly college basketball game was running overtime, so the track meet telecast was delayed. Really? There are approximately 4 billion basketball games on TV every year, and maybe a dozen track meets. The ball game was a full month before March Madness, so the network could have given track its due (and a little love). But no...

When i become emperor, things are going to change.

Finally, the meet came on:

Women's 60m. Allyson Felix wins a tight race, with former UO Duck Jenna Prandini in a solid third. Really strange seeing JP in Puma and not Nike...I can't believe the folks in Beaverton let her slip away.

Men's 60m. China's Su Bingtian gets a close 2nd. I said it at the 2014 World Junior Championships, when i saw lots of Chinese and Japanese runners getting top results: Asian is coming like a freight train, and with lots of depth.

Women's 5000m. Molly Huddle wants a record, but has to settle for second. Her consolation is a ridiculous early-season time of 14:57 or so, and on an indoor track. For comparison, she ran a 15:13 at the last Olympic Trials for second place, in the infamous Kim Conley race. The thing that really bugged me about today's race was that the lapped runners were sticking hard to the inside lane, instead of giving the leaders the pole. As a result, the last two laps were a mess of slow bodies getting in the way of the fast bodies. One of the unintentional miscreants was Jordan Hasay, another former UO runner. She made the 2008 Olympic Trials 1500m final as a high school junior, running a HS record 4:14. But in college, she never lived up to that potential...i think that her college workouts just sapped her strength, and her slight frame just couldn't keep up. But what do i know? Meanwhile, former ASU Sun Devil Shelby Houlihan runs 5th in a sweet 15:06; very smooth runner with an NCAA 1500m crown in her trophy case. She's going to be a good one.

Bottom line: lapped runners, get the heck out of the way!

Decathlon WR holder and defending Olympic Champ Ashton Eaton did both the long jump and the 60m hurdles, finishing 2nd or 3rd in the latter event. The guy is a stud.

Women's 400m. Natasha Hastings in a romp. This woman has a career with Maybelline waiting; her makeup is perfect, and her dreadlocks probably took hours to install. Or are those extensions? I don't know, but she got them perfect. And purple, too.

Pole Vault. Demi Payne, single mom, has a pole that was painted like a disco ball or an American flag.

Men's 3000. Ryan Hill wins with a furious push over the last lap. Good guy Eric Jenkins a solid third in 7:39, finally beating former teammate Edward Cheserek. Nice to see Eric getting a great result after finishing 2nd so many times in college. And abandoning his clean-shaven pate is Lopez Lomong, who was sporting hair on his head for the first time in years; i honestly didn't recognize him.

There's a British guy doing the play by play. He's good, but isn't there an American who can do a telecast? The same guy also did the US Olympic Marathon Trials a week ago...seriously, call me! No one knows track trivia like i do.

Wanamaker Mile: Centro wins in a very fast 3:50, and that's another smokin' time for this early in the season. The pending Olympic year means everyone gets sharp sooner and with more urgency.

And that means there will be lots of great track to watch this year! Nice to know that I'll be in the front row for most of it.

2015-16 Winter Training

ok, it's been awhile...time to get back on the horse, as it were.

My last race was the 2015 Eugene Marathon. I targeted that event with high hopes of finally getting my Boston Qualifying time, and my training was going well.


About a month out, I did a road trip to Seattle that forced me to sit in the car for awhile. On the ride back, my back stiffened up pretty well. 'Well' as in harsh. Lots of squirming...remnants from two back surgeries. An emergency massage helped a bit.

What didn't help was a workout of 16 x 400 a few days later. During warmups, I gave myself permission to bail out after a couple of reps if needed. But i loosened up nicely, took the first reps slow, and felt better quickly.

A couple of days later? Something deep in the top of my right quad was angry and strained. It got to the point where i couldn't put any running stress on it without pain. Some frantic physical therapy and lots of time in the Alter-G Anti-Gravity treadmill didn't do much except separate me from $500 in co-pays.

Lesson learned: when any kind of trauma appears, DO NOT schedule any hard core workouts until the problem has been gone for 3-4 days. It's obvious that my tight back caused the connective tissue strain, and I didn't give enough time to recuperate from 'A' before 'B' happened.

I went to the race hopeful that things would hold together. The leg felt ok by that point. The problem was that at about 3 miles, i already knew i was working way too hard to maintain pace. By 7 miles, I knew it wasn't going to happen. So i had a choice: struggle through another 19 miles and risk substantial damage, or take the bypass, finish the half marathon, and chalk it up to experience.

Fairly easy decision.

Afterward, i put away my running shoes for the summer. Got back into cycling, a little swimming, and tried to clear my head. I'd been targeting a BQ for what? 3-4 years now? I'm tired of falling short. So it's time to get away and reboot.

Come September, I'm feeling good again. So i start with 2-3 runs per week, a couple miles. Everything checks out.

Gradually increasing the distance, things are still good. But after a long run, i have some pain in my left shoulder. As in left ventricle. And my cholesterol is high. And a basic EKG shows a funny blip.

uh oh.

This is potentially bad. The left ventricle is basically the section of the heart that pumps the blood out. Discomfort on the left side could mean a pumping problem or a bad artery. The Left Anterior Descending artery is commonly known as 'the Widow Maker,' and it seems to be one of the most critical blood vessels.

The doctor schedules a treadmill EKG with an echocardiogram. Again, a blip on the EKG....sidebar: you get the echo pictures at rest, then you run on the treadmill, then IMMEDIATELY jump (literally) back on the table within 30 seconds to get another set of echo shots.

The toughest part is trying to hold your breath for 10-15 seconds to get a clear picture right after maxing your heart rate. Ugh.

The techs call for the on-call cardiologist, citing the EKG blip. Breathe, Campbell.

The doc comes in, a slight little guy who looks about as bored as my daughter when i tell her to clean her room. Pretty sure the doc was still chewing his lunch, and he clearly didn't want to be there. He looks at the echo shots for about 5-10 seconds, and says...


Huh? What about the EKG?

He says that the echo takes precedence over the EKG. No issues.

uh, thanks, Doc.

BIG load off my mind. Back to training, and I sign up for the May 1st Eugene Marathon in hopes of finally getting it right.

With that, I schedule my first-ever VO2 Max/threshold test at the college. This test will give me the exertion zones i should target for my training. The idea is that there are several physiological effort ranges, all of which need to be utilized in order to maximize fitness.

The only downside about training for a spring marathon in Oregon is that the winter weather doesn't really permit solid workouts outside. I don't mind the cold, but i won't risk running on black ice and potentially injuring myself. So i buy a membership to a small gym where i can run on high-end treadmills for as long as i need.

If i have to run inside, it's kinda nice running next to:
Max King, Olympic Trials Finalist and World Ultra Road/Trail Champion
Stephanie Howe, Western States 100 Champion
Jesse Thomas, Ironman Wales and 5x Wildflower Triathlon Champion
Lauren Fleshman, gazillion-time NCAA Champion and multiple Olympic Trials finalist
Renee Baillie, 2:27 marathoner in her first attempt

Even so...ever run 2 hours inside? it gets OLD. Thank goodness for The Nerdist podcasts; interviews with actors spanning all generations. Chris Hardwick, you're a genius...

My workouts tend to be in the range of 'mildly to moderately annoying.' Not hard enough to destroy me, not easy enough to be completely pleasant. It's not really fun, but it's what i need. My effort level stays steady while my paces continue to get faster. Good trends.

Now i'm at the point where i have the pace locked in: i simply need to extend the duration. A faster cadence helps a TON...while my engineering mind says there's nothing magical about 180 steps per minute (other than it's a nice round 3 steps per second), the faster cadence allows me to shorten my stride and expend less energy per step. It helps a lot; my form improves and becomes more economical, while my foot contact time decreases dramatically.

Today was very solid: 18 miles, 65 seconds per mile slower than race pace, and all in Zone 1 (my easiest zone). 15 seconds per mile faster than the 16 miler from two weeks ago, and roughly the same heart rate. Nice to know that i had more in the tank today. And it was at the end of my biggest mileage week of this training cycle. Things are coming around.

Other important factors:

I decided to use swimming as cross-training, with one big change from years past. Instead of swimming the entire 75 minute workout with the masters swim team, i would simply do 30 minutes of easy lap swimming before getting out. In previous years, I'd be so tired that I'd start to miss running workouts, and that told me that my 'off' days just needed to be easier. Now, an easy 30 minutes feels refreshing...I also added 1-2 days per week of yoga; the stretching and strengthening seems perfect for what i need.

While this training plan is definitely intense, it's working. The only downside is that my legs typically don't feel as fresh as I'd like, but that's to be expected during a build phase. About 7-8 more hard weeks until i taper...

Good to know that I'm training smarter.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 Indoor/Outdoor Track

When i first became a track umpire in 2009, i thought it would be amazing if someday i could work at the Olympic Trials.

But that's a tall order....there are something like 8000 officials nationwide, with one of the largest subsets being the umpire group.

Umpires are the officials who work the running events; we look for thrown elbows, runners cutting off other runners, dropped relay baton passes, and the like. Some of the other officials include starters (the gunslingers), throwing events, jumping events, and whatever else there is.

Over the years, I've worked more and more meets: NCAA Championships, Prefontaine Classic (international meet). And i eat this up; since i was 10 years old, I've been a track and field nut, reading deep into the history of the sport.

And i thought I'd make a lousy official, because I'd have to put aside my fan tendencies in order to do my job out there. But i quickly found out that i simply need to pay attention for the 5 seconds or so that the field is in my sector, and then the next umpire down the track picks them up. Then i can become a fan again.

My other concern was that I'd hate to hold an athlete's career aspirations in jeopardy, whether or not they deserved it with an unintentional foul. The good news is that an umpire doesn't disqualify anyone...we simply write up the infractions and give them to the referee, who is the one to decide whether a runner gets the booth. So it's not on my shoulders at all.

I'm good with that. In fact, after 9 years, I'm now to the point where i'd have no qualms about making the final call. And i quickly was recognized as an up and coming umpire; very knowledgeable about the rules, eager to learn, and always willing to ask questions. And since i like to write, it's no problem for me to add lots of paper to the referee's workload.

Then things began to happen: in 2014, i was selected to be one of 12 umpires to work at the Junior World Championships. A great honor and a tremendous experience....after the final event concluded, i sought out the gentleman who organizes all the officials. I'd spoken few words to him over the years, acutely aware of my place in the pecking order. Anyhow, I found Dennis and thanked him for the opportunity.

He floored me by saying that people at the highest levels have their eye on me as a Chief Umpire in years ahead.

Wow. I can most certainly dig it.

In late 2015, I applied for the 2016 championship meets. US Indoor Nationals, World Indoor Championships, and the Olympic Trials. I was told that there would only be 5 umpires picked for those first two meets, and probably 12 for the Trials. Slim pickings.

I was picked for all three. Including the US freakin' Olympic Trials! If i couldn't make the Trials as a runner (my childhood goal), being an umpire with the best seat in the house is pretty cool, too.

This is going to be a tremendous year.

And oh by the way...Los Angeles is bidding for the 2024 Olympics. With the vast majority of officials being in their 60s and older, there will be lots of attrition in the ranks over the next 8 years. Which means that if Los Angeles wins the bid, there is an amazing chance that i could get picked to work at the Olympic Games.

Stay tuned...