Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Prefontaine Classic

Like my chief umpire says, "Let's go play track!"

No better setting than the Pre, America's best one-day track meet, and one of the premier events in the world. 

On Friday night, UO hosted a reunion of the first 10 Oregon runners to run a 4-minute mile. How could I pass this up? 

Arne Kvalheim, Roscoe Divine, Archie San Romani

(Roscoe was the 2nd college freshman to go sub-4, after some guy named Ryan or something. Roscoe entered the lumber industry and had a respectable career, unlike that other guy who entered Congress).
All of them...

Later, at the track....who was the first man to run a sub-4 mile in America? (hint: it wasn't me).

Aussie Jim Bailey was given a scholarship by Bill Bowerman in 1955, then ran a surprising 3:58 while beating world leader John Landy at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Back then, Landy and Roger Bannister were vying to be the first man anywhere under 4 minutes. Also in the hunt was American Wes Santee, who ran under 4:01 twice in the months before Bannister's breakthru run.

Bannister ran 3:59.4 on May 6th of 1954, followed 3 weeks later by Landy's 3:58 flat. They both met for a 'rematch' at the British Empire Games in Vancouver that August, and also scheduled to run was young Mr. Bailey.

Last Friday night, I mentioned to Bailey that it would have been something if both he and Santee had run in that meet. He blanched, then said that Santee wasn't a Commonwealth citizen and therefore couldn't have run under any circumstances. I was taken aback, having remembered something different from my track geek history reading, something like him trying to get an invitational entry. But am I gonna argue with the man? Naw, though I did get the great selfie.

Mo Farah rips a 1:58 or so in the final 800 to win a quick 10,000m race. Then I head to Dave and Jeanne's house to crash for the night.

Look what I found in my bag...

A snack from work, I guess...Trader Joe's has great stuff
Dave and Jeanne have possibly the best runner's shrine I've ever seen!

And their new toy, which they are putting to good use for 10 days right after the meet:

All decked out, and plenty of places to go...I've been asked to train to replace the head referee, so I need to get used to laying down the law.

Is this a neat place for a track meet or what?
Lots of late scratches in the meet: Dibaba, Rupp, Centro, Allyson Felix. Would have been nice to see them, but the others filled in nicely.

Women's steeple: 2nd fastest of all time, a second off the world record of some Russian doper, and Emma Coburn gets the American record. Right before her post-race interview, she was sobbing on a cell phone, talking to her boyfriend. Who was in the stadium...

Really? She could have simply walked across the track and found him.

I'm such a dinosaur, but jeez...phones don't need to take over every inch of our lives, do they?

Boris Berian follows up his World Indoor victory with another big win. Unfortunately, it comes on the heels of Nike serving him with a contract violation lawsuit for shopping around when Nike has a right of first refusal clause. Awk-ward....and they even served him at a track meet! Could have been handled so much better.

Lashawn Merritt is a very large individual, even for a 400m runner.

Bernard Lagat made his 16th and final appearance. That's a lotta laps at Hayward Field. And even though he dropped out of the 5k, he took a bow and got a huge ovation.

I run under the stands for a quick trip to the (portable) head, only to find someone banging on the door outside. Uh, give me a minute, please. Turns out to be Canadian Cam Levins, and he had a race to run shortly. Wait your turn, buddy.

Renaud Lavillenie, (Air France), takes home another pole vault crown without breaking a sweat. I love watching this guy: he has so much fun out there. I guess that's easy when you win all the time. And he was sporting quite the outfit: a UO kit!  The guy can play a crowd...

Keni Harrison runs an insane 12.24 in the women's hurdles to blow up the American record, only 3/100 from the world record. And don't confuse her with Kenny Harrison, who won the 1996 Olympic Triple Jump crown.

Women's 1500m was run in 3:56, the fastest ever on American soil.

In the women's 400m, Ashley Spencer stumbles out of the blocks from the set position (before the gun fired). Oops. That's a DQ most days, and she knows it. She sports quite the long face, awaiting her sentence...

Except that a DQ is primarily when a runner gains an advantage or obstructs another runner. This was neither. And, like in baseball, the Pre management gives ties to the runner.

She is reinstated, and does quite the happy dance before getting back into the blocks.

Sanya Richards-Ross runs her last Pre race; she has done 49 races under 50 seconds. Beastly.

In the final race, the Bowerman mile, all 14 runners come in under 4 minutes, including HS senior Drew Hunter. He'll be attending the University of Oregon, thank you very much.

Some statistician up in the booth did some furious number crunching and found that Hayward Field has 'the fastest front straightaway in the world,' by virtue of cumulative sprint times. Ok, that's a stat even I wouldn't have known.

When i finished the 130 mile drive home, I immediately lunged for my copy of "The Perfect Mile" by Neal Bascomb. He did a marvelous job of detailing the efforts of Bannister, Landy, and Santee in chasing the 4 minute mile. My question: was Jim Bailey right about Santee not ever being considered for the Empire Games mile, or was I right in saying that he tried to get a provisional entry but failed?

After some furious searching....Mr. Bailey, you owe me a drink. Bascomb reports that Landy petitioned the Amateur Athletic Union, the Brits, and the US Marine Corps (his employer) for a chance to run against Landy and Bannister. All authorities turned down his request.

Smile. I would have been the best Olympics researcher on the planet. Actually, I am...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016 Pac-12 Championships

Last year, I was asked if I wanted to work at this year's Pac-12 Championships in Seattle. 

What a silly question. If there's one thing I love more than track, it's traveling to track meets. Especially when it's partially on someone else's dime. 

So off I go. Unfortunately, our local airport was closed for runway paving, so my options were a bit limited. But a 6 hour drive isn't too bad. And I decided on the back way, avoiding the Portland/Olympia/Tacoma traffic; on a good day, the slowdowns are brief. On a bad day, horrific. 

I stumbled across an online review for eateries near my halfway point, and the second pick was my target: the St. John's Monastery Bakery, north of Goldendale. Staffed by Orthodox Greek nuns who generously made no mention of my running shorts and Hood to Coast t-shirt, they served me up unquestionably the best gyro i have ever experienced. Just sublime. 

The dolmas were good, too: piping hot, not what I expected. I think i prefer the canned ones from Trader Joe's. But you can't lose either way. 

Yakima reminded me a lot of West Texas, only with more hills. And next time, I'll take the detour thru Roslyn and see the setting of the show Northern Exposure. 

Into the city, check into the hotel, then off to West Seattle to meet up with Kay, Stacey, and young Declan. 

Nice shirt, my man!
Kay's house has a wonderful view of Puget Sound...

Dinner was at Ma'ono: a Fried Chicken and Whiskey Bar? Yes, a full page of whiskey choices. 

And did I mention the food? If you haven't had Spam Musubi, you haven't lived. No joke. So much for dropping a few pounds. 

Back to the hotel, the Silver Cloud Inn on Lake Union. I've been in worse locations. And with someone else picking up the tab, it's even better; for this meet, the rooms are covered by UW. 

Next morning: up early for a swim at the Queen Anne Aquatic Center. Five bucks gets you in, and the pool had plenty of room. Recently, i decided to stop being timid in the pool, so i committed to learning how to execute a solid flip turn, not the garbage I've been throwing out there. And it began to click: the problem has been that i'm uncomfortable swimming underwater on my back, and that's what a proper turn requires. But hoards of real swimmers seem to manage without drowning themselves, so let's get after it, shall we? 

45 minutes of laps done, and I'm out of there. Now the fun begins....


 That's one seriously purple track (even if it looks a little blue).

Briefing at 10am, and the rain began promptly at 11. And continued for the next 3-4 hours in heavy doses. Very wet, but at least it was cold.

Did i mention the rain?

This sucker paid for itself many times can't write up fouls if the paper is disintegrating.

By the end of the day, i was ready for dry socks and a comfortable chair. Dinner was sushi picked up from the University Village QFC.

Next morning; a bit o' running. Wanted to start getting my legs back from that unfortunate Eugene Marathon experience, so down the waterfront i go. Over the Eastlake Bridge, winding thru the U, then past Husky Stadium and a massively attended road race. No thanks, i just want a quiet run to myself. 5 miles out, 5 back, and I'm good. Also noticed that I dropped some spicy miles at around 7:35 pace on the way back.

The rest of the events went well, not many fouls to report. Just some great running...the UO team, known for distance runners, goes 1-2-3 in both women's sprints. We knew Jenna Prandini would be tough to replace, and yet here's newbie Hannah Cunliffe laying waste to the competition. Oregon doesn't recruit, they reload. Ed Ches comes back from injury and lack of conditioning by putting a couple of 4:25 miles (estimated) at the end of the 10k, and doesn't have much company. Meanwhile, the 5k was awesome; a couple of Colorado guys pushing a serious tempo for most of the race...with two laps to go, their coach yells out, "Save a gear!" Too late: UW's Gilbert finds a snappy cadence in the final 400 and completes a solid 13:35.

His teammate Izaic Yorks leads wire to wire in the 1500 and takes the crown. Always good to see locals winning on their home track. And a nice big 'fro, too.

Oregon's Raevyn Rogers cruelly keeps the field close for 700m, then drops the hammer and runs away with the crown. She has a good chance to be a 4-time outdoor champion in the 800 meters.

My roommate James brought us to a great Mexican restaurant down the road. At the counter, I see this...

The server sees me looking suspiciously at the chocolate chip cookie and laughs. "Yes, it has jalapenos," he says. When i hesitated, he comped me. Not sure that made me more interested, but what the heck.

The food was great: fresh, tasty, and lots of it. Surprisingly, the cookie was good, too.

Next morning, I blew off another swim and decided to get driving. Seattle traffic (even outbound) is hideous. With the little bit of rain, i decided to return on the sunny back route, knowing that slick roads near the city mean lots of delays.

Same Greek bakery for lunch. This time, spanakopita for the first time. Not a fan of creamed spinach. The dessert baklava was beyond sweet, almost made me break out in hives. Next time, I'll stick with the gyros.

Great trip, great experience.