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 MileResults1 Tim Gore (42) Team Bsk 4:19.812 Jonathan Swanson (40) Unattached 4:21.183 Charlie Kern (43) Greater Phil 4:21.704 John Boosinger (36) Unattached 4:21.945 Randy Wasinger (36) Kansas City 4:22.096 Ian Gillespie (42) Unattached 4:24.287 Rikki Hacker (34) Kansas City 4:25.408 David Weiler (31) Unattached 4:27.029 Mike Blackmore(50) Bowerman Ath 4:27.6710 Kristian Blaich (46) Unattached 4:32.9111 Ron Kochanowicz (41) Kansas City 4:33.2412 Peter Magill (50) Cal Coast Tr 4:34.5013 Ray Knerr (52) Cal Coast/Compex 4:34.7514 Thomas Kreuzpeintner (48) Oregon Track Club 4:45.5515 Matthew Thomas (42) Club Northwest 4:50.5416 Nolan Shaheed (62) SoCal 4:53.01