Wednesday, May 29, 2013

3 Shades of Blue

I headed out for a 5 mile run just after 6 p.m. tonight looking like a fashion faux-pas.  But that's not really the point of this post but let me finish the attire first.  I realized about a mile into my run that I had on light blue shorts, a dark blue shirt and a medium blue hat.  It was a hot mess, which got me to thinking about the weather.

Normally in late May a run two hours before sunset is an invitation to a death march.  It's usually incredibly hot and unbearably humid.  But this spring has been anything but normal.  The humidity hasn't found its way to Fort Myers yet. 

Dew points by the end of spring are soaring into the 70's.  But the weather throughout March, April and May has been unbelievable.  It's been downright cool and the air has been, shall we say, crisp.  Running has been a joy.  And that's been an incredible help given the injury plagued February I endured.

Dew point is always the key here when it comes to weather.  I'd much rather run in 85 degree weather with a dew point of 65 than 80 degree weather with a dew point of 70.  Today it was 83 with a dew point of 69 as I headed out the door with rain clouds hanging about.  About 2 miles into the run it started pouring.  It was a blustery, cold rain.  It rained for a mile and while I wanted to be miserable I dare not. 

A month from now I will dream of a day like today.  It will be unceasingly humid and to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, hotter than a crotch.  It will stay awful until sometime in October when the humidity finally gets sucked back into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Summer running in Southwest Florida is nasty.  Most of the runners I know here think a long run is 10 to 12 miles.  You suggest going 16 to 21 miles and they look at you like you're insane.  I seriously don't know how the good high school kids make it through the summer.  I know they get up by 6 a.m. to get their miles in, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, I'll start pushing my evening runs back to an hour or so before sunset and limit the length of my runs.  I've been banging away at about 35 miles a week for about 2 months now.  I'll be happy to keep it at 30 through the summer.  It's been great to get through these last 10 weeks pain free.  Here's to building a base for some fall racing! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

40 years and 1 week ago

I was out on a remarkably cool and dry sunset 8 mile run tonight when it dawned it me that it was 40 years ago that I had run my only State Outdoor Championship.  I had been scanning the results of the Kansas State Track and Field Championships earlier in the day looking at some pretty decent results.  As I enjoyed the very unusual weather for Southwest Florida I thought back to the blast furnace heat that had greeted the runners in Wichita.

I had really wanted to run the 2 mile at State.  I've blogged about the spring of 1973 before.  I had run the mile and 2 mile at Regional.  I finished 3rd in the mile blasting the final 300 yards to outrun a kid from Shawnee Mission South named Curtis Martin, now serving time in a Missouri prison, but that's another blog.  I had finished behind 2 sophomores who were bound for greatness, Tim Davis from Shawnee Mission West and Eric Lathrop from Shawnee Mission South.

The 2 mile hadn't gone so well.  A group of 5 was together at the mile and I got hit with an overwhelming wave of the need to go to the bathroom.  I hung on for dear life and tried not to crap by pants.  I finished 4th just a tad over 10 minutes.  I know that Jim Dillon of South and Mike Mueller from Northwest beat me and I think another kid from South was in front of me.  I was pretty unhappy.

The week of training going into State was lackluster.  I remember the big finishing workout was supposed to be a 1320 in 3:15.  That's really not all that fast but it was blazing hot and I slugged my way to 3:22.  It was a sign of things to come.

The trip to Wichita was long and dull.  We went down on Friday.  I didn't even bother going to the track to watch the 2 mile.  I went out to dinner instead with my ex-stepfather who lived there.  I had to share a room with shot putter Mike Wellman who would go on to win State the next year.  Mike had a lot of fun and made sleep a little difficult.

It was blazing hot when we got to the stadium around 11 a.m.  I think our race went off sometime after 2 p.m.  I spent as much time as possible under the stands in the west side of the stadium.  I felt it was too hot to warm up out in the sun so I slowly jogged back and forth under the stands.  I wasn't looking forward to what was to come.

I don't remember seeing any of the other mile finals from the other classes.  I came out from underneath the stands at the last possible minute.  12 runners lined up on the 6 lane, hard yellow track at Wichita State.  I was on the outside.  The gun went off and it was a jogfest.  All 12 runners were within 5 yards of each other for the first two laps.

Just about 10 yards past the 880 mark all hell broke loose.  I'm not sure who made the move but I looked up and the entire field was gone and I was dead fucking last.  I just put my head down and tried to make up ground but the heat was gobbling me up.  I caught a runner about 500 yards from the finish.  The race was unfolding a good 50 yards in front of me at that point.

Clark Hamilton of Shawnee Mission North was battling Kent Adrian from Wichita Southeast for the win.  Clark would take the race almost 10 seconds ahead of me.  If you look at the picture below that's Clark in the black and pink.  I'm hidden from view.  I think this picture was taken just as the break was happening.  I managed to reel in Eric Lathrop from South with about 250 yards to go but that would be it.  I would finish 10th in 4:36. 

I remember crossing the finish line and thinking my feet were on fire.  The heat from the track was searing through the bottom of my spikes and my feet were burning.  I jumped down to the field which was Astroturf and sat down and ripped off my spikes.  The turf was super hot and everything felt like it was on fire.  I quickly got to my feet and made my way to a men's room underneath the east grandstand meekly waving to my ex-stepfather who, much to my surprise, came to see me run.

In the men's room is was cool and dank.  I spotted Adrian and offered my congratulations.  He was in a state of shock.  I think he was surprised that he had run so well.  We both agreed the weather was miserable. 

The only highlight of the day was watching my teammate Tad Scales set a record when he won the pole vault.  It was the first of back to back titles for Tad.  But for me, it would be my one and only trip to the State Outdoor.  What a disaster. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alan Who?

A mere 12 years ago the world of track and field was abuzz because of a senior in high school who was poised to break Jim Ryun's land standing record in the high school mile.  Alan Webb smashed Ryun's hallowed mark at the Prefontaine Class running 3:53.43 and would go on 6 years later to set the American Record in the mile hitting the tape in 3:46.91.  Just a half dozen years ago Webb seemed lined up for an Olympic medal at 1500 meters when it all came crumbling apart.

Fast forward to 2013 and Webb, a mere 30 is an afterthought on the American running scene.  Which brings me to the newest high school sensation who is doing things that are for lack of a better term, Ryunesque.  Mary Cain, an outstanding high school runner as a freshman and sophomore, has made a stunning leap onto, the world stage.  Despite her record setting rampage, which began during the indoor season this winter, Cain doesn't seem to be getting a lot of love beyond the world of track and field.

The records started falling for the Bronxville teen in February when she destroyed the American high school record for 2 miles.  She followed that up by taking down Debbie Heald's 41 year old high school indoor record not once but twice, setting the final mark more than 10 seconds under the old one at 4:28.25.  She topped off her indoor season by winning the U.S. Indoor Nationals beating a field of pros with a stunning kick.

The outdoor season started at Drake with another high school record at 1500 meters, ho-hum.  But the fireworks came this Friday night when Mary Cain blasted a 4:04.62.  That blew away Jordan Hasay's once epic record set at the 2008 Olympic Trials (already broken by Cain last year as a sophomore) by about 10 seconds and gave Cain an "A" standard and puts her in a position to go the World Championships this summer in Moscow.  We're talking about a high school junior.  We haven't talked about a high school junior doing things like this since the summer of 1964 when Jim Ryun made the U.S. Olympic Team at 1500 meters.

Getting more publicity than Cain's accomplishments is the fact that professional coach Alberto Salazar took control of her training regiment last winter.  Salazar made it clear after this latest record that Cain was already the real deal, long before he was asked by her parents to guide her career.  Yet despite all of incredible accomplishments, including a national title as a high school junior, you don't see Cain on Letterman like Webb.  There's barely been a mention of her on ESPN.  It's as if all this is happening in some sort of media blackout.

I think short of her winning outdoor nationals this summer and a place on the team to Moscow, I doubt she'll get the kind of media love she so richly deserves.  In fact, even that may not be enough.  You see, while Webb chased the magical sub-4 minute mile and Jim Ryun's venerated record, Cain is chasing records that are largely unknown and rarely discussed outside of the tightly-nit media that covers track and field.  But I don't care.  I can't wait to see her toe the starting line in person in June.  I can't wait to see history in the making.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remembering Fred White

It seems like Fred White has always been part of the sports equation with me.  As I became "aware" of sports growing up in north-central Kansas, it was men like Fred, Gus Griebe in Wichita and the legendary Bruce Rice in Kansas City that I clued in on.  Fred White died suddenly at 76.  I never knew the man but I felt like I lost a friend.

I first remember Fred doing sports at WIBW.  He and the late Ron Paradis made quite a sports team at the CBS powerhouse.  Every year when they'd televise the K.U./K-State basketball game, Fred would call one half for the Wildcats and Max Falkenstein the other for Kansas.  Right away I could see that Fred was special. 

It didn't take long for the Kansas City Royals to see it to and they hired him away in the mid-70's.  A lot of great play-by-play men and sportscasters have gone through Topeka and Kansas City.  K.U. grad Kevin Harlin ranks at the top of my list as the best, but I'd put Fred at number 2.

As good as he was doing Royals games, I think he excelled at college basketball.  For some reason I enjoyed his pairing with the late Paul Splittorff as his color man when the former Royals great was breaking into the business.  It was just a great combination.

I'd run into Fred at sporting events, in the press box, but I held him in such awe I couldn't approach him.  I feel lucky to have seen his work.  He comes from an era of sports excellence where the Royals produced on the field and great writing flowed from Topeka that produced the Capital-Journal sports writer Bob Hentzen and Rick Dean. 

It feels to me a chapter in Kansas sports history has closed with White's passing.  But I know men like Steve Physioc and Greg Sharpe still carry that standard of exellence that WIBW created through the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

1972 Kansas Relays

41 years ago I ran in my first Kansas Relays.  A nice autographed reminder came in the mail today to remind me of that.  As you can see, Jim Ryun is on the cover.  He was on his way to his 3rd Olympic team.  He would break 4 minutes for the last time on the stadium track on Saturday April 22nd.  I was lucky enough to witness it along with 20,000 or so others who gave Ryun a standing ovation after running 3:57.1 to beat Tom Von Ruden by almost a second.

On page 17 of this program you'll find my name, along 12 of my Lawrence High teammates.  It meant the world to me to get to run in the Kansas Relays as a sophomore.  It meant more to me than getting to run at State, which I didn't do until the following year.  I ran in the Distance Medley Relay and the Mile Steeplechase.  Neither race went particularly well and I came out of the meet wondering if I really had what it takes to be a good high school distance runner.

The DMR was Friday morning and I ran the 1320.  We ran pretty poorly.  Vince Miller, another sophomore, led off in the 880.  Coach Steve Sublett had a tough choice between Vince and Clay Kappleman for that leg.  Both wanted to run it badly, my guts told me Clay would have been the better choice but I didn't have a vote.  I can't remember all of the splits but Vince ran around 2:08 which but us pretty far back in the pack.

Dave Crawley, a very good quarter miler ran the 2nd leg.  There were probably 12 to 15 teams and he probably got the baton about 3rd from last.  Dave picked off a couple of teams and I got the baton in no man's land.  I can't remember if I passed anybody or if anybody passed me.  I ran terribly though, splitting 3:25 when I was in shape to run at least 3:15.

Glen Lemesany anchored running a respectable mile in about 4:36.  I think our finishing time was a shade over 11 minutes.  We were all disappointed because we felt we could have run under 10:50 and been in the top 5.  I was really disappointed for Glen because he hadn't run fast enough to qualify for the Boy's Open Mile so other than the 2 Mile Relay the following morning, which didn't go any better it wasn't a great meet for him.

The steeplechase fell on the following morning.  I was hoping for a top 3 finish.  I had the luxury of practicing a few times on the track at K.U.  Kansas steeple great Kent McDonald had given me some pointers.  The most important advice he gave me was whatever I did, don't land on 2 feet in the water jump. 

Of course, that's exactly what I did my first time through the pit and on the slick tartan my feet went out from underneath me resulting in a quick bath and sending me from about 5th to 10th.  I slowly worked my way back up through the field and was in sight of 5th place on the last lap when on the next to last hurdle Yael Aboulhalkah slid over on me causing another spill over the barrier.  I finished an embarrassed 8th. 

I now realize I took all the bad out of the KU Relays and put it to good use the following Friday at the Shawnee Mission North Relays.  I was determinedly focused and ran 9:49.5 for 2 miles, which wasn't half bad for a high school sophomore.  Thanks for the memories Chris Ronan!