Friday, March 18, 2016

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!

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