Well this past Saturday I competed in my track and field event. I got to see the culmination of my training which started in earnest in January as I started to go from building a base of miles, to more and more specific workouts. It all led to this weekend’s 2016 CT Master’s Games track and Field event in New Britain on Saturday.
Last year was my first time participating in the Master’s Games. I was completely new to the whole track and field thing and signed up for too many events. This year I only signed up for two events. It was going to be an odd double, but I chose to run the 100 meter race again, and the 3000 meter run. They are polar opposites in my opinion, with the 100 meter being speed and power, and the 3000 meter being aerobic and stamina. I am not really, no I am not a sprinter at all. I have not truly trained that way since I played tournament softball and vintage base ball (yes two words in 1864).
My first event of the day was the 100 meter. While it was far from a disaster, I am definitely not happy with how it went. The oldest age groups go first so my group was in Heat #8. It is a lot of waiting around and for me an anxious time as I mentally go through a checklist of things from form to trying to keep from popping up out of the start, etc. In heat #7 about five steps into the run a guy collapsed into the track hard with a bad hamstring, having to be carried off the track and delaying our start. That in itself was disconcerting enough. I was thinking to myself, “Why am I even trying this when I’m mostly focused on middle distance now?” “That would be my luck to get injured and not even be able to participate in the event I really trained the most for.” The 3000 was the real event I was looking to run well. The injured runner was now helped off the track and it was our turn to step to the line.
It was now time for Heat #8. We lined up. There was one guy who was in the 30’s age group to my left. I know he is incredibly fast and not who I needed to worry about as I was competing in the 40’s age bracket. Everyone else was to my right. We got to the line I felt really ready despite my legs feeling heavy on my last workout before the Games as today there was no heaviness at all. On your mark, get set, and we’re off. I barely heard the gun as I exploded off the line. I got a great start and in my periphery could see I had a step maybe a step and half on the runners to my right. I have never gotten such a great jump in previous events. Then I heard people yelling for us to stop. Someone had false started. The runner to my left had jumped.
We go back to the line. I was thinking I hope I can get off the line as fast this second try. We got ready again. They get us to the set position, the sweat was pouring into my eyes, and my arms were shaking, and after what seemed like an interminably long delay before the gun, I jumped! I could not believe it. I did not even realize I moved, until I realized they once again yelled for us to come back. It seemed like an unusually long time till the gun. Now I knew I was going to have to tough time because if I jumped again I was going to be disqualified. Unfortunately I was correct. On the third start (no one jumped this time) I sat back a bit to be safe and did not get as fast a start, and also my right foot slipped a touch on my first step. Well that was about it for me as with such a short race, and such fast runners, and the fact I am not sprinter, there was no way I was catching up.
I was not totally upset as I did improve my time in the 100 meter from 14:50 to 14:15 while even being a year older. So I am pretty happy with that and the fact that I had a slower start off the line to avoid a DQ mean I might have been able to post a better time with more training a better start. Maybe next year I can improve.
Now I had my first race out of the way and checked the schedule. They were running behind and I had my 3000 meter run coming so I quickly downed 8oz of beet juice, and settled in to watch the competition. These men and women are amazing. You can see that despite their ages these older adults have kept moving and are pretty darn good athletes. They are not sitting in some senior center playing Bingo, but are choosing to stay active. It gives me hope that I can stay active as I get older and should provide hope and inspiration to you as well that there is no excuse to not stay active and maintain your health. You only get one body, and one life. Don’t waste it.
I made a quick phone call home to make sure everything was ok with my wife, and to see how my daughters were doing as they had pretty full schedules too. My wife is a trooper and always supportive of my running and insisted I compete when I had said I was not going to. Thankfully my mother in law came to provide help last week. Even still, staying on top of my training the last two weeks was quite a challenge.
As the time neared for the 3000 meter race I began a specific set of dynamic stretches I use to get ready. I made it over to the starting line. There were 13 runners in my heat. I had a great conversation with a couple guys. I could see despite that they were a little older that they had been doing this their whole lives and were very well trained and experienced. I have only been running seriously since 2013, and that was training for some half marathons. Last year was the first year I trained for Track and Field, and never ran track in school. In fact the last time I truly ran long distance was in 8Th grade on Field Day or from the police but we won’t talk about that.
I knew I was going to have to run my own race and not start off too fast or too slow. I was in the outside lane. In the 3000 you can come out of your lane soon as the race starts, but are supposed to make sure you have a step lead before cutting over. I was able to get over pretty quickly and settled in behind the guys I had been talking to. There was a pretty nonexistent wind all morning right up until our race started. I could see the American flag blowing directly towards us. I figured I would at least have the wind at my back on the second turn but it must have been a swirling wind because the breeze never really let up. That was ok though as I tucked in and let the three guys ahead of me cut through the wind while I drafted, which seemed to help.
I stayed with the lead pack for the first 800 meters (2 laps on a track). I realized after glancing at my watch I was running a bit ahead of where I thought I could maintain but was still pleased because it did not feel like an effort. Slowly I let the lead pack get further ahead, as only one of the guys in the lead pack was in my age group and I knew they were faster. I settled into a pretty good pace that I knew I could keep up for the rest of the race. I hit the one mile mark in about 6:05-6:07, so I knew if I could just hold on that I could beat my time from last year easily.
I was now down to three laps. As I came around the turn that faces the track clock and the lap timer I got a little confused because I knew I had two laps left, but it said one lap left. Thankfully they yelled out two more and I was able to stay in the stride I had going. I hit the final 200 meter mark and glanced at my watch and knew I had this. One guy had already finished who was in my age group. I knew I had silver but one final kick down the last 100 meters and I had done it! I shaved over 30 seconds off my time from last year. I had run it in 12:33, and the scoreboard showed that I ran it in 12:01!
I was incredibly happy and more than ok with silver. I had run a new personal best, and the guy who beat me for the gold ran a great race and I could not have kept up with him. He came over to congratulate me, and we discussed our daughters and how they run with us. After a few more words of congratulations to each other and waiting at the finish line to congratulate and cheer on the runners who were either still running or finishing ,and quick firm handshake I went to go get my medal.
I stopped to have a picture taken on the podium and that was a wrap on the 2016 CT Master’s Games. It is funny to think with such short races those months of training, one event is over in just over 14 seconds, and another in about 12 minutes. It was literally months training for a total of about 12 minutes and 15 seconds. It really did pay off though when I put that silver medal around my neck and stepped up to the podium.
I do have more races over the rest of the summer and into the fall but this was the big one for me. I want to thank God the best running partner ever. I also want and need to thank my family, and friends, and everyone who sent texts, words of encouragement, and followed my training via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my blog.
Thank you all! Happy running!
P.S. I had to celebrate with some pizza!