Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Portland Masters Track Classic – Rare Weekend Double

Continuing on with the 2012 season on the track, I completed a rare weekend double, running the 1500 meters on Saturday and the 5000 meters on Sunday at the Portland Masters Track Classic.  Held at the Mount Hood Community College track in Gresham, Oregon, this meet commonly sees a handful of good Portland area masters show up for the middle and long distance events.  However, for some reason this year the turn-out was very slim.

After braving an exciting but rain-filled day on Friday as a spectator at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, I got my weekend of racing started with the 1500 meters on Saturday afternoon.  Like Friday, it continued to rain off and on all day, however the temperatures were perfect and the wind never became a factor.  From the start list I saw Jonathan Swanson was in the race and I knew there was at least one speedster in my age group who would be going out fast.  With Kevin Paulk also in the race I figured I would have someone to run with for part of the race.  Kevin was quickly on his way back to fitness, and by later in the summer would undoubtedly be leaving me behind, but based on his efforts as a pacer for Nolan Shaheed in the Portland Track Classic Masters Mile, he and I were in the same ballpark.

As we were warming together up before the race we discussed where we wanted to be time-wise and hatched a plan.  We would work together and I would take the first lap in around 70-71 seconds and Kevin would take the next lap in roughly the same split.  After that

My goal for the race was to at least break 4:30, but I really wanted to get close to 4:25 and also set a new PR.  In 2011 I never managed to do any races on the track, but in 2010, upon turning 40, I hit the track hard and ran a PR 4:28.xx while finishing well back in the pack at a college meet at Lewis and Clark College.  It would be great to better that time today.

As expected, Swanson was gone with the gun and as planned I moved into second with Kevin behind me in third.  Unfortunately, I got a little too eager and went through 400 meters in 68 seconds rather than the planned 70-71.  Kevin was smart and held himself back rather than getting sucked in by my too fast start.  I held the second place position, passing through 800 meters in 2:21, which was more or less the pace I was looking for, but the fast start was catching up with me and I was starting to tire. I tried to focus and maintain for the third lap, but started to falter, passing 1200m in 3:39.  Kevin was never far behind, but with 200 meters to go, I dug in, got up on my toes and pumped my arms for a reasonably strong finish.  Jonathan Swanson ran away with it finishing in first in 4:14.90, with me in second in 4:29.76 and Kevin in third in 4:34.52.

Afterwards, I was feeling pretty good and was looking forward to the 5000 meters the next day.  Unfortunately, the start list for that race was a little thin and I realized I might be all alone….again.  In my one other 5000 meter race on the track this season at a Masters meet in Coos Bay in May I lapped the entire field and was relegated to a solo run, a time trial of me against the clock trying to click off 80 second laps for a finishing time of 16:40.  But on that day I fell off pace and could only muster a 17:03 finish.

It looked like this day was shaping up to be a similar solo run, although the weather was a bit better with no wind at all, cool temps, and partly cloudy skies.  As the first event of the day, getting us runners off the line was a bit shaky, as the starters pistol miss-fired three times before we finally got underway.  I went to the front and quickly settled into my planned pace of the same 80 second laps.  Dammit, I was going to run 16:40 one of these days!  My training and other results said I should be able to do it, I just needed the right race and to stay focused.  But doing that all alone is harder than it sounds. 

My first 1600 meters passed by in 5:21, pretty close to right on pace as I began lapping people in the third lap.  Going through 3200 meters in 10:50, I was losing a few seconds each lap and knew that 16:40 was out of the question, but I might still break seventeen minutes.  I did my best to stay loose and keep my head in the race, but I never was able to pick it up and lost a few more seconds each lap.  Coming down the straight away with 2 laps to go they rang the bell.  What!  No! I shouted, “Your count is wrong, I have two laps to go!”.  I am glad I was paying attention to my lap count, but how hard is that really?  Just look at the watch or clock and you can be sure where you are.  I sure knew that I wasn’t about to run 15:40 for 5000 meters!  In the end, I managed a time of 17:06.40 in a race that was sadly very similar to the one I ran in Coos Bay, down to nearly identical splits.  I think I need to find a deeper and faster 5000 meter race on the track to nail that elusive 16:40.  Maybe one of the Club Northwest all-comer meets is the best option.

From the posted results at the meet, I saw that at the meet on Saturday morning, Bill Aronson ran a very speedy 34:45 for 10000 meters.  From talking with others who also ran the 10000 meters, it was pouring rain with lots of standing water on the track.  I am not disappointed that I chose not to run that race, but I would have liked to have had someone of Bill’s talent with me in the 5000 meters.  That would have made for a much more interesting twelve and a half laps.

Since I like to over-analyze my races and look at track stats, I thought I’d see how my last three races on the track compared to one another and where they predicted I should be for a well raced 5000 meters.  Those races were the Masters 3000 meters at the University of Oregon Twilight Invitational, the Masters Mile at the Portland Track Festival, and the 1500 meters at the Portland Masters Track Classic.  Using the IAAF scoring table all three were between 539 and 543 points, with 541 a reasonable average.  That is fairly tight cluster.  But most interesting is that using 541 points as a target, my predicted 5000 meter time should be 16:38.70. 

Distance            Time                  Points
1500                  4:29.76              539
Mile                   4:50.54              543
3000m               9:42.39              540
5000m                16:38.70               541

Perfect, right in the ball park of what I am shooting for in my training and racing goals.  Now, to find the right race to make it happen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oregon Masters Mile - 4:50.54

With track season now in full swing, I recently had an opportunity to compete in a special men’s masters mile in Portland, Oregon.  The Oregon Masters Mile is a special prize money race at the Portland Track Festival.  Since 2005, Race Director Dave Clingan has done an outstanding job of luring many of the top masters miles from around the country to come to Portland to toe the line, chase the money and maybe set a national or even world age group record or two.  In many years, this is the most competitive outdoor masters mile race of the year, bringing together a better field than even the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships.  The only other comparable race is the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile, a similar assemblage of elite masters milers racing each January on the indoor track at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

In short, this wasn’t your local all-comers track meet, this was serious racing for masters milers and the field assembled for this year was as deep as ever.  Going into this race, I was well aware that I was completely outgunned and would be bringing up the rear, but I really couldn’t care less.  For me, this was essentially another important moment in my masters running career, a running bucket list item if you will, and just getting into the race was enough to make me happy.  Of course, I wanted to do well and to try and run my seed time of 4:42.

All seventeen of us lined up at the start.  I'm on the orange and black, third from the right.

To me, a time of 4:42 was realistic.  My training was going fairly well, and I definitely had the speed work under me.  What I was less sure about was my strength.  Could I really hold this pace for all four laps?  Concentration was going to be critical, especially on that third lap.  As I stated, I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near the front of the race, but I wondered what might be going on back where I would be running.  The great Nolan Shaheed was going to be in the race and, at age 62, would undoubtedly be chasing a new American record in the 60-64 age group.  The listed record was 4:58.2, and based on similar performances from Nolan in the last year or so, he would likely be running in the low 4:50s, so that would mean he ought to be behind me, but never far.  I also knew my friend Thomas  Kreuzpeintner from Eugene was running and, while he probably also wouldn’t be way up front, he normally is a bit ahead of me, so I would have Thomas to chase.  Hopefully it wouldn’t get thinned out too badly back in the rear of the race.

Anxious and nervous at the start or last minute jibba-jabba trash talking?

After a 20 minute delay, we finally toed the line, all seventeen of us.  There were some really fast guys in here too, such as Mike Blackmore and Pete Magill, who together had been spending the spring beating up on the men’s 50-54 age group record for the 5000 meters on the track, with Magill lowering it to an amazing 15:06 the weekend before.  Also in the mix were Charlie Kern form Philadelphia and Ian Gillespie of Portland, and it was guaranteed to be quick.  On top of all that, there were a number of 30-something speedsters itching for a fast race.  My goal was to go out in 70 seconds for each of the first three quarter miles and then just try and hang on.  

With the gun, I immediately dropped back and tucked in behind Thomas.  I promptly forgot about those guys up front.  They could do their own thing, I’ll watch the video later to see how that unfolded.  Sitting on Thomas’ heels we went through the first lap in 69.  Not bad, I wasn’t feeling great, but I wasn’t feeling awful either.  As we rounded the back stretch on the second lap, I noticed it was getting a bit breezy.  Oh well, head down, keep racing.  I did my best to stay relaxed and hang onto Thomas, but by 700 meters, I could tell I was starting to falter a little.  I went through a half mile in 2:21, a stride off of Thomas.  Nolan was about 5 seconds back and working his magic with the generous aid of Kevin Paulk who agreed to join the race as a pacer to Nolan.

Still close on Thomas' heels with two laps to go.

Coming into the third lap, Thomas maintained and I lost ground as I really began to labor.  I made it through 3 laps in 3:34 and thought I might be able to muster something of a kick and run a solid 70 second last lap.  Unfortunately, I was out of gas and did my best to hold my form together and keep my legs moving forward.  It was a humbling experience to just begin to round the last curve near the steeplechase water jump and hear the announcer calling the finish of the same race I was competing in.  I kept moving forward, but could hear Nolan coming on behind me, not to mention the cheers of the crowd to carry him to the finish. 

Coming down the final straight away.

I made it to the finish in 4:50.54, about 10 meters behind Thomas and a few strides in front of Nolan, who ran a blistering 4:53.01 to set a new American record for his age group.  Technically, this was a new PR for me, since I had raced a full mile on the track.  My 1500m PR of 4:28.26 from 2010 coverts to approximately 4:49.30 (when compared on the IAAF scoring tables) so, this wasn’t a bad day for me, although I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t closer to the 4:45 range.  What mattered most was that I got to toe the line with a great group of runners.  

This was also my first race wearing the orange and blue of Club Northwest, a competitive running club I joined from the greater Seattle area.  

Aaaaand, that's a wrap.

My next race is another masters 1500m on the track, and although I am sure there won’t be nearly the depth in this race at the Portland Masters Classic as I experience in the Oregon Masters Mile, I am hoping to run closer to the equivalent of that 4:45 mile time, which would be around 4:24.15.  Let’s just say I have unfinished business.
2012 Oregon Masters Mile
  1 Tim Gore (42) Team Bsk 4:19.81
  2 Jonathan Swanson (40)  Unattached 4:21.18
  3 Charlie Kern (43) Greater Phil 4:21.70
  4 John Boosinger (36) Unattached 4:21.94
  5 Randy Wasinger (36) Kansas City 4:22.09
6 Ian Gillespie (42) Unattached 4:24.28
  7 Rikki Hacker (34) Kansas City 4:25.40
  8 David Weiler (31) Unattached 4:27.02
  9 Mike Blackmore(50) Bowerman Ath 4:27.67
 10 Kristian Blaich (46) Unattached  4:32.91
 11 Ron Kochanowicz (41) Kansas City 4:33.24
 12 Peter Magill (50) Cal Coast Tr 4:34.50
 13 Ray Knerr (52) Cal Coast/Compex    4:34.75
 14 Thomas Kreuzpeintner (48)   Oregon Track Club 4:45.55
 15 Matthew Thomas (42) Club Northwest 4:50.54
 16 Nolan Shaheed (62) SoCal  4:53.01