Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 World Indoor Championships Day 4

Last day, and we're on our best behavior. Even the cones have signage...

Doug rarely needs to loosen up...

Any guesses what this is?

Here's a hint:

The incoming ramp is to the left. "Vesuvio" is the machine that produces the fake fireworks for the athlete introductions. Clever, I know..

Double Olympic Champ Gail Devers is on hand today, and she clearly still does not know how to cut her fingerclaws.

How does she scratch her nose? Very carefully!
Talking with Starting Line Clerk Dan: he's worked two Olympic Games and is a wealth of 'behind the scenes' lore...

Dan Story #1: In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the women lined up for the 100m start, and Gail took off her sticky hip numbers and threw them on the ground. Since the numbers are required by the rule book, Dan gave her another pair of numbers. She stuck them on, waited a minute, then peeled them off again. Dan gave her more,, citing the rules. Then Dan's boss waved him off, and she won the race.

Dan Story #1: at the same Games, the women's 4x100m relay was lining up to start. Each team is given a standard baton to use by the officials, and everyone has an identical one. Leadoff runner Chrystie Gaines says the American women have their own baton, and she refuses to swap it with the official version. She puts her baton down on the ground and does some strides. While she's down the track, Dan switches batons and throws hers in the nearest garbage can. Then he hides where she can't see him. Turns out the US women won gold, so they should thank Dan for that.

Another rainy 4 mile run this morning, and my workout week is complete. The legs are starting to come around again.

Funny: on Friday, I was exhausted and ready for this track meet to be done. Today, I'm ready for more.

Marquis Dendy get introduced for the long jump while wearing a porkpie hat. Then he does monster jumps wearing a ballcap backwards. He and his ridiculous springs win his first world championship; he must have broken lots of things while bouncing around the house as a kid.

During the 3000m introductions, Lee Emmanuel dumps a bottle of water on his head as he jogs down the track. Shoot, all he had to do was run outside for the same effect. The event turns into an all-out drag race with 1200m remaining. Ryan Hill was slightly gapped at 3 laps, inched his way back up, then went from 5th to 2nd at the tape with that buttery smooth stride of his. He will do much damage on the outdoor tracks this year when he can uncork those long legs.

Ruth Beitia wins the age group HJ competition for competitors 37 and older, while placing second to 19 year old Vashti Cunningham. I'm not sure whose accomplishment is more remarkable. According to the announcer, Ruth is the 26-time Spanish champion. 26????

Robby Andrews starts the 1500m very well, way up front. Then he falls back to his familiar 'tail end Charlie' position and can't quite make up ground. Meanwhile, Nick Willis does an explosive move with 300m to go, but Little Centro is right on him. And then right past him. Huge win, and a very loud arena sees the 'hometown' boy make good for his first major championship. He rarely finds himself out of position, just a tactical perfectionist.

The music between events is "Somebody to Lean On" by Pentatonix. My daughter would love that! She's going to the Portland concert in a month, and she even has a backstage pass to meet the band. She about lost her mind over that revelation.

Me and Ishmael, hurdle crew captain. And UO hurdler from days gone by. It was only recently that his best college performance was nudged out of the university's all time top ten. That's 30 years of staying power. His son is 24 and has been on the hurdle crew for 16 years! There's potential for a 60 year volunteer pin in about 4 decades.

Every victory interview focuses on the huge crowd support. International Olympic Committee, are you listening? We want the 2024 Games in the US.

Jamaica's Omar MacLeod wins the men's hurdles in a wind-aided time of 7.41 seconds. Big cheering section out there.

The Polish women take a surprise 2nd in the 4x400 relay, and screaming so loud that the marshals have to clear them from the track lest a riot break out.

(did anybody take notice that a 'wind-aided' time indoors probably isn't likely?)

Vernon Norwood, he of the 400m DQ, runs an angry anchor leg on the men's relay to put it away. The Belgian team comprised mostly of Borlees (three of them) drop the baton; I guess the next holiday meal at their house might be a little strained.

Team Bahama, with a nearly 40 Chris Brown. These guys won Olympic Gold in 2012.

Retired stud decathlete Rex Harvey asks me who the gentleman in the white shirt is, and of course I know...

Dwight Phillips, 5 time long jump World Champion
I guess I'm getting some cred among the officials!

My work on the 400m break line is complete without a hitch; I didn't want to make a mistake and have someone trip. One of the International Technical Officials, a very high muckety muck, shakes my hand and says "Good job." That's worth a lot in this biz, where nit picking happens all too frequently.

Game, set, match. Great competition, great job hosting the meet by Oregon and the USA. We got a big thumbs up from the IAAF, so hopefully they'll remember that when they decide if Los Angeles should get the 2024 Games.
Mentor Fred Newhouse

Final order of business: get dressed in my Sunday best and head downtown to the Fan Festival.


The Festival in Pioneer Place (all the sane people have left by now)


The awards podium

Top notch officials
 And some munchies in the VIP area...

 Good thing I was dressed appropriately:

Thanks, Molly!

Sorry it's over. Glad I was here.

Or there.

Or anywhere.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

2016 World Indoor Championships Day 3

At least I got more sleep than yesterday's 5 hours. That wasn't enough after a long run, but my body sometimes won't shut down when I have deep workouts like that.

Regardless, I was pretty sore this morning, and I needed to run a bouncy 8. Some of that mileage needed to be done in a military manner (with all due haste). Down the East Bank Esplanade of the Willamette River to the Springwater Trail and back.

Ugh. My legs just didn't work right during the warmup miles. I had to concentrate on picking 'em up and putting 'em down. Miles 6-7 were money, almost a minute per mile faster than race pace. That's plenty for today.

At our pre-meet briefing, I swear our Kentucky good ol' boy chief umpire Bo said, "Try to look impotent out there."  After a double-take, I realized his drawl wanted to say "important."Subtle difference.

I saw Harry Marra, coach of both Eatons, and congratulated him on a double victory. I wonder if he's paid on commission.

Ah, sweet relief: for the 60m hurdles prelims, the adjacent shot put netting is removed, but the thick floor cushioning is still there. So much nicer to kneel on that than directly on the track surface, which has the consistency of 100 grit sandpaper.

Runner's faces always fascinate me. People have different expressions when they are pushing hard:

1) Lolo Jones: slasher homicidal manic

2) Nicole Blood: very late for a doctor's appointment

3) Robby Andrews: oh, wow, golly gee (while at 3:52 mile pace!)

4) Emil Zatopek: please, just shoot me now.

The great Emil Zatopek

In the women's 60m prelims, the Marshall Islands and Saudi Arabia are both represented at the bottom of the field. The Marshall woman wins the prize for most awesome compression calf sleeves, day-glow orange.

Women's 800m semi: coming into my turn with a lap to go, the field is literally 5 wide! It turns into a drag race.

The first heat of the men's 4x400m relay is won by the team from Borlee. As in: Borlee, Borlee, Borlee, and Some Other Really Fast Guy. The Belgian Borlees have the world's best relay team under one roof when they add sister Olivia.

Bahamian 'Fireman' Chris Brown runs the anchor leg in his 8th World Championship competition. Since this event happens every two years, that would make the old. And still very fast. The last leg of this relay has four guys in a very furious paceline, all acting like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder.

Or Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.

Lunchtime: we're all tired of the concession stand food, so I find out that there is an enclave of food carts near a mass transit stop.

Here's my Cubanito...egg, sausage, ham, jalapeno, avocado.

Food coma!

Female triple jumpers look like a praying mantis, all limbs and levers that are folded strangely.

Men's 800m Masters (over 60). Maybe the best race of the night; two guys at the line, and one of them gives up his body in a swan dive.

Men's 800 final: So much bumping and bashing that I completely miss the finish because I'm writing up two fouls. Those guys should be more considerate of my time.

And after taking 3rd, it's clear that Eric Sowinski has gotten much faster since he cut his hair:


Two years ago, Boris Berian was flipping burgers at McD's after he dropped out of college. Tonite, this still-unsponsored guy is the world's best indoor half miler. Brave run from the front, Boris.

Hey, Nike: do you think maybe you want to sign him now? Just askin'. He's only been the best American 800m guy for the last two years. And Phil (Knight): you may have noticed that Boris's run brought the house down. I think the masses like this dude, and isn't that what marketing is all about?

US Women go 1-2 in the 400. Again I can't see a great finish because I'm busy writing incident reports. I hate fouls on the final lap, because I miss all the action!

Women's 1500m final: the leader drifts into Lane 2 and shuts down the trailing runner. I write up an obstruction foul, and I'll be mortified if the report is upheld. This is a world championship I'm influencing!

After the events are done, I jump the train for the downtown fan festival where the medals are awarded. Ms.Praying Mantis gets her gold, and I quickly learn that the Venezuelan national anthem has an awesome trombone line. Need to learn that one.

And it sounds like someone named Max Peck won silver in the men's triple jump. Huh? I didn't think we were choosing astronauts here....Turns out it's Germany's Max Hess is the jumper, and Max Peck is a guy only a NASA junkie like me would know.

Look, it's been a long day, and I'm punchy.

Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 World Indoor Championships Day 2 (and not much running)

Not quite as eventful as yesterday. Thank goodness.

My personal workout wasn't much more involved than an Epsom salt bath this morning. Legs are pretty sore from yesterday's flogging.

It's all good.

While at my post trackside, I hear a voice calling for me. I turn around, but no one in the stands is looking my way. And there is no one standing on the track nearby.

It's an audio/visual guy literally under the track, and I can't see him because there is some kind of opaque black cloth to hide the track's structure.

The track: 3/4" plywood, a foam layer, then the green track coating itself.

Here's my perch overlooking Turn 2:

Yes, my chair fell off that box. Twice. I was sitting in the chair both times. Gotta entertain the crowd, you understand.
Here's my secret cubby under the stands:

This hideout serves two purposes:
1) a place to stash my chair when I have to move around. Chairs at track meets tend to disappear.
2) A place for me to sneak an energy bar or drink. We're not supposed to consume on the track, but off the track is ok.
And it's only 10 feet or so from my chair. Hey, I told you it was a slow day.
Vernon Norwood, late of LSU and the current national champion in the 400m, steps on a lane line and gets thrown out of the race. No hometown discount for Americans.

In the 3000k prelims, Ryan Hill coasts to an automatic qualifying place in final. Seriously, he was COASTING. I'm sure he stayed aerobic the whole way. He truly looked bored.

800m heats: Wais Khairendesh from Afghanistan makes a good showing, though he doesn't advance. His hometown was overrun by the Taliban, and his father literally pushed his family onto the last train before being captured. The family made it to Tuscon, where Wais finished high school. He's now pursuing a graduate degree in Chicago! Props to ya....last year, he raised the funds to compete for his country in the Beijing outdoor world championships, and found himself running on the shoulder of world record holder David Rudisha. I hope Wais got plenty of pictures from that meet.

Someone false starts in the 60m sprint and is DQ'd. I hate that what other sport does one mistake jeopardize your ability to make a living? Most of these athletes get no appearance fees, and they depend on winnings. I've said it before: if someone false starts, penalize them a certain time, and let them compete. They are suitably but not overly punished, and their fans still get to watch them.

Heat 7 of the men's 60: Adams, Conde, Bracy, Harris, and Himasha Eashan Waththakankanamg. For some strange reason, the announcer only said the guy's first two names. How come Sri Lanka gets no respect? That's chickens*** in my book.

Did I tell you about the amazing corned beef sandwich I had last Sunday in Portland after Nationals was done? Kenny and Zuke's is a shrine...or should be.

First time EVER that I've seen a shotputter actually RUN a victory lap. Oh...he stopped after 100m. Never mind.

In the women's pentathlon...Brianne Theissen-Eaton is 150 points down on the leader and 36 points behind 2nd place with one event to go. The two in front are Ukrainians, built solid like their specialties are the strength events, while Bri is fairly slender. The last event is the 800 meters.

Hmmmm...she has a chance to slip into 2nd, but 150 points for the win is a huge jump. Then I remember watching a video of her and hubby Ashton doing hill reps in Eugene's Hendricks Park. Beastly workout. Hmmmmm....

At the gun, the Ukrainians are at the back, and Bri is pushing the pace. As they pass the high jump pit, Ashton is twisting arms of his own competitors to get them to cheer. Bri goes nuclear in the last two laps, coming around the leader in the final turn for a huge win. The Ukrainians stumble across the line 10 seconds later.

Ashton holds his head and slouches across one of the timing clocks. He's in agony....

YES!!!!! Not just a jump past the 2nd place athlete, but Bri leaps all the way to the top spot on the world championship podium. She earned that win on the hills of Hendricks Park.

By the way, Ashton was jumping around the infield like fire ants had invaded his shorts. Yeah, he was excited, all right. Very cool.

Long jumper Brittany Reese is fast. Like, insanely fast. No accident that she's an Olympic champion.

Last event is the final of the men's 60m dash. Jamaica's Asafa Powell has been running lights out, and I'm thinking he'll take this.

You know who didn't share the same opinion? American Trayvon Bromwell, who took his rocket start and 'ran' away with the race.

Boo, hiss: bad pun. But great win!

2016 World Indoor Championships Day 1 (and a little running)

Today are the opening ceremonies of the World Indoor Track and Field Championships, live and in living color from the home of Voodoo Doughnuts, though I doubt many athletes will be carbo loading there.

144 countries represented, almost 3/4 of the entire world.

Just the pole vault competition today, so I'll be going into some detail about my extra curriculars.

Yesterday, on the drive to town, I see a traffic sign declaring "62 minutes to SR14," which was 8.4 miles away. Today, I could run that distance faster than driving. Fortunately, I'm already at my exit.

I hate Portland traffic. But I love the view, like Mt. St. Helens.

If the wind have been blowing south on May 18th, 1980, Portland would have been covered in feet of volcanic ash.

Last night, the Oregon Track Club hosted dinner for the officials at Sanford's Restaurant in Lloyd Center. Amazing panko chicken...and my neighbor allowed me a taste of the ribs, too.

Logistical genius Veronica and Chief Umpire (and proud Kentuckian) Bo

My good!

The ribs...

Next morning: my second of three 20+ milers in preparation for the Eugene Marathon. Toughest part was figuring out a course: since I'm smack dab in the middle of the city, any route from my hotel will include a stop every block for traffic signals.

What is the origin of 'smack dab' anyway?

I study the bus map and find a route that brings me out near the airport. That'll give me a clear running path along the river, so I find myself at 0750 standing outside in 38 degree weather and waiting for the #70, with a final stop at the Columbia River Correctional Facility. No, no visits today, but the bus was nice and warm.

As the bus approach the river and the wide open skies, I began to feel the anticipation that a sled dog has when realizing that the race beckons. Those dogs get LOUD!!

But the gem is across the street: the Concordia University Throws Center. The brainchild of 1976 Olympic Discus Champ Mac Wilkins (UO Class of Early Seventies). this complex was/is the only of its kind in the country, a place where anyone can practice their shot put/javelin/hammer/discus technique. I was hoping to meet the man himself, probably the first track and field athleteI remember reading about, but he had moved to a training center in San Diego a few years ago. However, I still saw him...

Here's the man himself, throwing his way to a gold medal in Montreal.

And he thoughtfully put a PortaJohn on the premises. Thanks, Mac!

Saddle up, Camelbak charged, gels and salt stowed, and I'm off.

Did you know that Henry Winkler lives in a Cape Cod? The Fonz? The things you learn while listening to 'The Nerdist' podcast.

Very cool to run past an airport. A US Airways 737 is awaiting takeoff 200 yards away, so I make like an aircraft carrier flight deck shooter getting ready to launch a fighter jet, complete with salute and touching the deck while pointing seaward. I swear he returned the salute!

No, I wasn't dancing like the guy in the video. I'm much more dignified.

Soon I'm passed by a guy flying at a ridiculous pace, and I swear it's a bundled up Jesse Thomas from Bend, winner of last year's Ironman Wales. Sometimes I see him at Recharge.

I stroll all the way down Marine Drive to Gresham, site of the Blue Lake Triathlon that I did a few years back. Coming home, I see two banana peels a mile apart but fortunately didn't slip on either.

The Fonz mentioned his dyslexia that wasn't diagnosed until age 30. He had so much trouble reading and learning his lines that he would simply memorize and improvise. He did pretty well, as I recall. He said on the podcast that in school, everyone is taught at the same pace, but a good number of those kids learn slower, so they get left behind. Reminds me of what Bill Bowerman, Prefontaine's coach said about group training. "The fastest one is underworked, the slowest one is overextended, and no one gets the optimum workout." So he started implementing individualized training, and quickly showed a success rate second to none.

Somewhere, there's a lesson in that.

Next podcast is actress Hillary Swank. She mentioned the need to create silence within a scene so the audience has a moment to involve themselves; otherwise, there is too much activity and they are a passive spectator. I had a music teacher once who said the same thing, and I never bought into musicians whose sole purpose seems to be how many notes they can cram into a measure. Doesn't give the listener a chance to figure out where it's all going. Lots of beauty in the silence.

Sounds like meditation. Just sayin'.

At 14 miles, it's time to switch from podcasts to my race playlist. First up is Billy Idol, so I start 'dancing with myse-elf.'  Aw-aw, uh-oh.

Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

A big, burly, bearding guy with lots of facial hardware bikes past me at mile 16 and says, "You're haulin' ass, man!!"  Don't I know it, brother. And thanks!

Done. And the bus is right there waiting for me. The driver asks how far I went. When I told him I turned around at Gresham, he got on the horn to Dispatch and told them! Too funny.

Tired, happy boy

My last three long runs, all at the same heart rate level. In other words, the same exertion:
18 miles at 9:00 pace
20 miles at 8:49 pace
20 miles at 8:37 pace

It's all coming together. If your fitness has plateaued, get a lactate threshold test and train by heart rate. It works.

On the bus ride back:
  • A guy whose pants are so low that his belt line is literally mid-thigh. How is that comfortable?
  • A class of third graders hooting and hollering while on an outing (not to the jail, I presume).
  • A gorgeous track at Grant Park. Uh, no thanks: I'm done for the day!
  • a blind man, about 40 years old, gets on the bus. Then he's getting off at my stop, which is temporarily relocated due to construction. He's a bit confused, rightfully so. I offer to walk him across the street, which he appreciates. He knows exactly where my hotel is, and he's continuing on to the train down the block. A privilege to walk with this man.
Good workout. Great experience.

Since today is the last day before the track meet starts, I'm assigned 3 hours overseeing the warmup track at the convention center. Not much activity...the highlight was a volunteer who asked if I had any rubber gloves. No, why? "Because I've been told to set up some vomit buckets for when the runners finish."

I love track!

From Willy Wonka's factory? No, just shot put caddies.

I saw this post on late Thursday: someone is not doing their job!

Uber is awesome! Fast, clean, cost effective (like me).

Our official gear included convertible pants: two zips and it's shorts for everyone!

After my shift, I take the train downtown. All officials and competitors get a free transit pass for the duration of the meet, and I'm gonna wear that sucker out. I get tired of hotel food.

I stop by my previous employer's brewpub, and run into some old friends. Nice reunion!I

As I'm leaving the pub, I swear I see two time Olympic gold medal hurdler Angelo Taylor. I look at him, he looks at me....hmmmm. I bet he remembers me from Hayward Field.

On the train back to the hotel, I realize that Portland is a gorgeous city when it's not raining. Everything is green and clean.

The train pauses at a stop, and two cops with a drug sniffing dog go thru the cars. That's a first for me.

I guess I should talk about the track meet for a moment...

The announcer welcomes us to the '2014 World Indoor Championships.' Then he introduces Trinidadian Ato Boldon, '4 time Olympic Champion.'

4-time? Ato, baby, we love you, but I remember you getting a couple of silvers and not much else. For the record, right now I'm looking it up: he won one silver and three bronze. No gold.

Whoever writes the scripts for this meet needs to call me for some polishing.

Lord Sebastian Coe gives the introductory remarks: he's the head of the world governing body for track and field, and he's had a pretty rough first year, what with all the doping scandals. But even though he's pushing 60, the man STILL looks like he could drop a 3:48 mile on your butt.

I bought tickets for the pole vault, not knowing if my credential would get me close enough. However, all officials were given entry to a private (and catered) section of the stands. Big-timing it...but the wine was corked, so I pitched it.

Opening ceremonies...

Had great conversation with mentor Fred Newhouse, who took home lots of pretty hardware from the first Olympics I ever followed.

That's Fred in front of me...
I asked Fred about Rex Harvey, the man whom I shared a room at last year's indoor nationals in Boston. Rex competed in the 1976 Olympic Trials alongside Jenner, and finished 161 decathlons in his career. 

Fred said that the man missed his calling. While Rex earned a masters degree in engineering and worked on the Space Shuttle, Fred said he should have stayed in PE and been a lifelong coach, because the man was born to be on the track. God bless you, Rex.

Then Fred talked about the 1980 Olympic boycott of the Moscow Games. Evidently, President Carter didn't overtly order the boycott; he said he'll follow the recommendation of the US Olympic Committee, of which Fred was a voting member at the time. What happened is that the two main sponsors, United Air Lines and Sears, both said they'd pull their sponsorships (travel and apparel) if the team went. If the team didn't go, both sponsors would renew for 8 the end, the vote was 75% in favor of a boycott. Keep in mind that the USOC is comprised primarily of businessmen with a few athletes thrown in. I suspect the government leaned hard on the sponsors to force the issue, and the ones who got screwed were the athletes.

I love track. And I hate politics.

But Fred restored my faith in humanity by showing me the amazing onion-smothered kielbasa dog he got for dinner, and all was right with the world again.

American women went 1-2 in the vault, with an American guy getting silver. Meanwhile, my man Renaud Lavillenie (Air Lavillenie, as he is called) destroyed all comers again. The guy is a vaulting beast, yet is no bigger than me. Whippet fast, amazingly strong, and a world-class celebrator, he clinched the competition by easily clearing 6.02m (19'9").

As soon as he fell onto the mat, I yell '6.17, 6.17!'  Fred looks at me quizzically.

Of course, EVERYONE knows that 6.17m, or about 20'3" would break Renaud's own world record by a smidge. Would be very cool to see, but it doesn't happen.

Oh well. A great prelude to the next day's running events. Hope you see me on the track!