This is a personal reflection on today, February 22 2015, at the USATF 8K Masters Championship race in Brea, California. For my usual detailed recap, check back in a few days.
If you are a strong Masters runner, I urge you to put this race on your calendar for next year, February 28, 2016.
Last year I ran 32:12 and finished 2nd in my age group. This year I ran 34:05 and finished off the podium. So why am I extremely happy? Many reasons--
- At race time it was about 60 degrees under partly cloudy skies rather than single digits (positive or negative) with much snow.
- I've been battling a hamstring injury since last August. I made progress up through early November when I ripped it again. Physical therapy sessions, lots of exercises at the gym and a new, adaptive approach to training runs later, I finally figured I could try another race. Based on my workouts, I figured I could break 37 minutes and hoped that I might break 35 (roughly 7 minutes per mile). So the 34:05 exceeded my expectations and realized my hopes. It shows me that I am making slow but steady progress and, with reasonable luck and perseverance, should be able to run a reasonable race at the Gate River Run in 3 weeks time and, I hope, at the Boston Marathon, in a couple of months.
- My wife and daughter accompanied me and we all enjoyed the break from the winter [see 1st bullet]
- They awarded performance medals for everyone who age graded at 80% or better that are just like the usual USATF medal on the front and on the back it says, "Elite/Age-Grade/Performance/80%+/Regional Class" or "...85%+/National Class" or "...90%+/World Class"--See me showing off my classy medal below.
Nifty Age-Grade Performance Medal Awarded at Brea 8K --at the Award Ceremony
- This is a new development that came as a suggestion from the Athlete's Advisory Committee; it was enthusiastically adopted by the Executive Committee. This is a great incentive for really strong runners who happen to be in an age group with three or more virtually unbeatable elite runners at the top...and almost all of the age groups seem to be stacked these days--very competitive! It's also great for those runners who might be coming back from injury and not quite up to their game who want to get in a fitness check and if they run a good race, get recognized for that achievement. The goal is to have these performance medals at every USATF Masters LDR event from now on.
- I picked up some Individual Grand Prix points. This is another change from years past; if you finish the race you are guaranteed at least 5 points to count toward the Individual Grand Prix contest, and if you finish in the top ten, you get at least 55 points.
- [See-- http://www.usatf.org/Resources-for---/Masters/LDR/Individual-Grand-Prix.aspx]
- It was great to be part of a race with so many top performances and strong rivalries--an American Record was set and there were a lot of races determined by just a few seconds between 1st and 2nd. Come back to see my recap in a few days.
- It's a great field; the SoCal and Pacific Association runners and teams turn out for this and a fair number of runners come from across the country. There were 280 Masters runners who toed the line today!
- It's a real pleasure to see my racing buddies and hear their stories--from Atlanta to Grand Junction, Colorado to Salt Lake City to Ann Arbor to East Tennessee--The camaraderie of these amazing athletes is what makes USATF racing so special.
- Did I mention that the race is really well run and that the course, although no pancake, has a nice rhythm to it so the times are still pretty good. There's one steep, short hill in the first half mile that doesn't cause much of a problem, and a somewhat longer hill just before the 3 mile mark that is a bit more of a challenge. But you have the reward of a long downhill shortly after you crest the hill.
- And there is a very extensive food court after the race--Yes they have water and bananas, but they also have coffee, subway sandwiches, pizza, burgers, cake, cookies and yes, even mac and cheese...not to mention tacos and pasta!
- This was the second year of a three year contract. It is not guaranteed that the hosts will submit a bid for another 3-year contract. So that's an added reason to come next year. It's either your last chance or it's a chance to increase the registration by so much that the USATF SoCal has no choice but to negotiate another contract with USATF to host the national 8K championship.