Since my debacle at Albuquerque in March where I tried my first track meet at national level and had a terrible race, I have been very focused on ramping up the quality and intensity of my training. My next opportunity to run the way I believe I can run was in Houston in June at the National Senior Games. Fortunately, things went much better than they did in New Mexico.
Before I get to the race, a few observations about the environment of masters track racing. The bottom line is I really enjoy the atmosphere. Of course there are a few hyper competitive (fill in the blank)s but for the most part the men and women are mutually supportive and a pleasure to be around. They know a lot more about training and racing than I do at this point. I take that deficit as a positive – if I can learn more over the next few years I will have a better opportunity to improve relative to my competition. Nevertheless, there are runners who are and most likely will always be on a higher level.
I’m intrigued about what my opponents do for a living. To the extent I’ve asked, the answers tend to be track coaches and/or high school physical education teachers. I train in Miami with a 40 year old who is the best in the country at his distance. He is a financial advisor who organizes his work schedule around his training and races. I also train with someone my age who is a premier triathlete as well as a fantastic runner. He now does sales for a company he used to oversee – he also organizes his work schedule around his training. Suffice it to say I haven’t run into anyone else who is running a large global company.
My 1500 meter race was scheduled for 8:20 a.m. Fortunately for all of the competitors, the National Senior Games track meet was a well-run affair, with the races taking place on schedule. That may sound obvious to a non-participant, but most races in Florida are laughably late and it is not uncommon that I have to warm up several times before I actually run.
Less fortunately for the competitors, the race was outside in Houston in June. Even at 8 a.m. it was 90 degrees and very humid. Oh, and there was a strong headwind right down the homestretch. Luckily for me, training in Miami was good preparation for such conditions and I felt ready to go. I had done some pace work on a track in Houston about 36 hours before the race and felt comfortable running at my goal pace of 80 seconds per 400 meters. There were 10 runners in the race, from nine different states. Unlike the 800 meters which has qualifying heats, in the 1500 meters there is only the finals. A number of my opponents were also entered in the 800 meter event but I wanted to focus all of my energy on one race.
I won’t bore you with the play by play of the race. In summary, I went out exactly as planned with my first 300 meters in 59 seconds. The next three 400 meter laps were 80, 83 and 83 seconds for a total of 5:05.09 and a 5th place finish. I would have loved to have broken the 5 minute barrier in this race. I expect to reach that goal later this summer. The most important thing was that, unlike in Albuquerque, I felt I belonged in this national final and was right in the middle of the racing. Well, maybe not in the middle of the racing being done by the winner (53 year old gym teacher from Nebraska) who smashed the National Senior Games 50 – 54 age group record with a 4:28. Wow! He also won the 800 meters the next day with a 2:13. Back to work…