Saturday, March 12, 2016

2016 US Indoor Nationals (Day 2) and more marathon training

This morning, I needed to do a short, hard run. Following Thursday's 2 hour tempo, today had 'difficult' written all over it. Especially with a forecast of rain and high winds.

At 0600: no rain, no wind. Time to get after it before Mother Nature changes her mind. Of course, she did, and very quickly. But not until I was a half mile into it. Heck, I'm warm enough. Just wet.

2 miles at a pace slightly faster than race pace, then a short recovery, then another mile substantially faster. 7 miles total, and it felt pretty good once I was fully warmed up. Down the east bank of the Willamette, past the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and across that funky new bridge to the south waterfront.

Did I mention the rain?

Down to breakfast (Doubletree by Hilton, near Lloyd Center in Portland). Huge breakfast and lots of war stories from Chief Umpire Sue. She worked at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and never wanted to do another one. Bad experience? No, she just couldn't see anything topping that.

And she remembered sitting on the track in Atlanta and thinking that this was the greatest thing a track fan could do. I can dig it....hopefully my chance comes in 2024 if Los Angeles gets the Olympic bid.

Sue told me I'm on my way to becoming a chief umpire, since there is a critical shortage of qualified backups. Meanwhile, the coordinator of officials asked me if I wanted to train this year as referee for running events (umpires report to the referee). Wow, it's nice to be wanted!

Another long time umpire Diane also told many stories. I mentioned that I love hearing the 'behind the scenes' stuff, and she said she'll send me some of her books from the golden years of track. Yes, I do believe I'm onboard with that.

Back to work...

Oregon Convention Center, site of USATF Indoor Nationals and IAAF World Indoor Championships

The warmup 'track' is nothing more than a thin sheet of all-weather turf from a patio:

the indoor track from the back side

Schlepping around the festivities before my shift starts...

Five minutes later....Super Umpire!

After I changed my clothes, I realized my legs were still sore from the last run. But I brought my magic potion...

That stuff is gold. GOLD, I tell you! And since I wore shorts on the track, I could cryo-freeze my legs without gumming up a pair of pants.

I think of everything....except when I don't.

Speaking of that 'thinking of everything' part: we were told we could not have gear bags with supplies or rations on the track. Normally, I'd bring a water bottle and maybe a newspaper to read in between events (not really). But I have this nifty 'Rain Writer' waterproof clipboard that is great for track meets in Oregon. And it was raining the whole time I was here....(but yes, it WAS an indoor meet). Anyhow, I stuffed everything I could into this; the left side is a Velcro strip that opens to release spring tension. The right side is the top, and you can see the clear plastic front. You can open it, then hold it up in a rain storm and write inside the plastic so your stuff doesn't get soaked. Too many times, I've written up fouls without cover and have had the paper turn into oatmeal before I sign my name.

 Ah, yes: activities other than track meets were in town...

Speaking of track, I guess I should include some notes about Day 2's events...

Setting up for the 60m hurdles, men's running events referee Fred Newhouse greets me. The man has silver and gold from the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and I enjoy talking to him. I ask if he ran many indoor meets back in the day. He replied in the affirmative, even remembering that as a young buck he once ran at an indoor meet in Portland. So I asked if he arrived at the track via horse and buggy.

It's neat to get punched by an Olympian. Just sayin'.

Ever had your cones stolen by a thrower? No, that's not a jailhouse euphemism....I had stashed my mini cones for the 400m break line off to the side. Next thing I know, Olympic Hammer Throw Silver Medalist (and facility director) Lance Deal had unknowingly picked them up and used them near the long jump. Got them back,'ll see why in a minute.

Men's 3000m race walk; I don't like watching the walks, because they go faster than I currently run! Sure enough: first mile in 6:10, and the finish in 11:37. Makes me sick to my stomach.

Former International track star Lewis Johnson, now a key track and field interviewer, is putting on makeup near the finish line. He's probably 6'4", big stud of a guy, and now he has a tiny compact mirror in his hand like the one my mom had 40 years ago. Very strange sight...

High Schooler Vasthi Cunningham, daughter of former NFL QB Randall, sets a World Junior record and world's best jump of 2016 with a ridiculous 6'6" (1.99m). A high schooler!!

I look at the official program being handed out. There's a picture of pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, except the caption says Ryan Whiting. Uh, they are most definitely NOT the same people...

Here's the picture of Kendricks...

And this is shot putter Ryan Whiting, all 300 pounds of him. He's not getting that body over a pole vault crossbar any time soon.

Only a track geek like me would have noticed that!

Laura Roesler gets second in the 800 final, and I hope she also doesn't get skin cancer, because she's been spending lots of time in a tanning bed.

Oy...the women's 1500m. Here's a pre-emptive mea culpa, but it sure wasn't my fault; I just happened to be there:

The chief umpire was told it was a single waterfall start; one curved starting line with all competitors shoulder to shoulder, and they all break for lane one at the gun. Instead, the starters set it up as a two alley start: meaning that the outer alley's runners stay in lanes 4-6 through the first turn before breaking in. This means that the first turn has to have cones for 50 meters on the line between lanes 3 and 4 to segregate the two alleys.

Because the chief umpire wasn't told about the change, we didn't have enough cones at that end of the track when the runners were lined up. I had 5 cones from the 400m race immediately prior, but we needed 15-20 to cover the turn. And I just happened to be 30 yards away from the starters with my lousy 5 cones when we needed three times as many! We frantically begged, borrowed, and stole what we needed, and the race was underway.

The starters (and TV people) were torqued at the delay. Bad communication. We figured out how to prevent it again. And the integrity of the race was preserved, though a bit inefficiently.

Incidentally, I think someone in the stands yelled at me by name! I'll say it again: IT WASN'T MY FAULT!!!!

Sandi Morris cleared 16' for her first trip over that height, a big pole vault milestone. Then she went another 3" higher and beat 1) the reigning US Indoor Champ  2) the reigning Olympic Champ  3) the reigning indoor world record holder.  Okay, so #'s 2 and 3 are the same person: the way I wrote it looks more impressive!

The meet ended without incident. Afterward, 8 of us jumped on the train and went to Jake's Seafood Bar in the city. Yes, I'll have the Ahi tuna, please.

So good. And Diane next to me had an amazing sole filet that I also tried. I love seafood!

Later, the exhausted crew got back on the train for the hotel just as our free transit passes expired at midnight. Left to right: Reggie from NYC, Doug from Michigan (light blue jacket), Ned (partially obscured, from Minnesota), Ron (Bethesda), Diane (Chicago), Karen (KC), and Chief Umpire Sue (not pictured).

Since I didn't have enough cash for dinner, I ran to the nearest grocery store on Sunday morning and got some bills off my debit card. The two energy bars I bought had to be stuffed inside my sleeves, because I was also getting yet another rain-soaked run done. 4 miles later, I'm back at the hotel with legs feeling loose.

Good meet. Great time...and we get to repeat it in a week when the World Championships happen on the very same track!

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