It’s early Friday morning and I was off to the track to compete in my first Pentathlon. 60 meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump and 1000 meter run – each event is scored. We arrived early so I could declare, get my number, find out where I needed to report to and it was game on! I had to report to the hurdles at 11 am and that is where they would check me in and they would give me my heat and lane assignment.
Hurdles – I was placed in heat 2, so I got to watch heat 1 before it was my turn. I did not use blocks, but start from a standing position. Why the long t-shirt? This goes back to my bike racing days. If I fell down, I didn’t want track rash…lol It was my turn for the hurdles and I looked out at the sea of hurdles ahead of me. I decided to try 1 warmup and my steps I had practiced put me about 4 feet short from the first hurdle. Hmmm. Ready, set, go, I shuffled my feet and raced down to the first hurdle, up and over now I’m hoping my sequence of 3 steps still held true. Not really, I ended up alternating legs to go over the rest of the hurdles. My finishing time was 11.56 or something. Cool. That’s exactly where I wanted to be about mid pack. Then you get 30 minutes in between each event.
Long Jump – I opened my phone to check my long jump measurements that I had worked out. I go to find the measurement mark on the ground near the end of the long jump runway and mark my start. Next, we were allowed to take some warmups down the runway and jumps if we wanted to. Pentathlon huddle, the official informed us that we get 3 jumps. I stood at my mark, took off and jumped about a foot from the end of the takeoff board. Okay, 2nd jump, felt good on takeoff and not so good on the landing. I didn’t allow my knees to buckle instead all the momentum of the landing went to my back, and I put my hand behind me to catch myself as I fell backwards…ouch!! My wife was filming and I told her I just hurt my back. I had made my way back down the runway and practiced lifting my left knee, raising my hands, and feeling the back pain. I had a decision to make. Play it safe or go for it. I had waited 1 year to try this because of a previous back issue and I wasn’t going to stop now, so I went for it, it was my best jump of the 3. What’s so cool about Nationals is guys are willing to provide advice. After my last jump a nice gentleman took time to explain that I have good speed and if I worked on my landing I could possibly go another foot or more.
Shot put – I had my ice cooler with me and my buddy Advil (take 1,2 maybe a few) so I tried to keep the competitors from seeing that I was hurting while holding 2 small ice packs on my back leaning up against the building pole. I would lay them down on the bleacher during warmups. Again another official huddle, this time as if the shot put wasn’t technical enough you have rules of the pit to follow. Don’t exit the pit until the ball lands, exit out the back, you have 30 seconds to complete your throw at 15 seconds an official will raise a yellow flag right in front of you while you are trying to remember, left, right, put. I got a safe throw off, heard someone say exit out the back so I did and back to the ice packs until I was up again. 2nd throw, I’m getting ready to throw, the official puts up the yellow flag, I hit a good put, and I was excited as I walked off the side of the shot put box (not the back), FOUL, what, what did I do? Okay back to the ice. My last throw was ugly and I think the ball rolled further than my put. I kept my tights on to keep my legs warm if you see a picture or video… I was able to sneak in some pasta and refill my water.
High Jump – I hope this Advil starts kicking in. 30 minutes pass. I had a good warmup but still not a good 123123123 jump rhythm that I wanted. The official asked me where I wanted to come in at so I decided 1.21 meters (almost 4 feet). A few weeks back at Ocean Breeze they moved up the bar by increments of .05 meters, but here the bar would be raised in increments of .03 meters. So my first jump over – good. Then my second jump over – good. I had good jumping legs, but since I had come in so low the guys were like you are only going to have a few good jumps left. My final series of jumps would come at 1.45 meters. I had missed this height at Ocean Breeze. I wanted this height, 1st attempt, bar fell, 2nd attempt the bar fell. I told the official that I needed some bar love like some of the other guys where having when the bar bounces but stays on. One of the guys told me to arch my back and lift your hips. On my final attempt I cleared 1.45 meters. I was pumped!! I made 1 attempt at 1.48 meters but missed badly and told the official I was done. I wanted something left for the run. After I was done another official said my approach was different every time…I could only laugh to myself… This was also the first time that someone had mentioned to me how I was doing overall in the competition. I was in fourth place, cool. Just finish it out and you should score well in the 1000 meter run he told me.
1000 – I was amped up to get racing on the track. Ready, bang! Okay, what happened to ready, set, go? So, I took off, went out to fast…I was trying to slow down so I wouldn’t burn out. I got passed on lap 3. I was doing all I could do to hold on and finish. Coming around for the final lap, the group of guys had push me out to lane 4 to get around them, funny the small details you remember during races.
I finished up and was catching my breath when someone had told me that I had just won the silver medal. Seriously? I was surprised! I had done what we do at each NMO (No Mercy Oval) workout and that is give it all we got and let things settle where they do. The guys had called me over for a group photo shot and they were congratulating me. It was an exciting moment…I manage to run over to the PT massage table to happily spend $20 for my massage…
The rest of the weekend would be icing on the cake…
The rest of the weekend would be exciting as well. My first National Championship Gold medal would come in the 4 x 200 relay 50-54 age group on Saturday evening. John Curtis would lead off and hand off to Wayne Foulk (who reminded me not to take off on him) I waited and took off and finally handed off to Bruce Rash who brought us home in first place.
Next up for me would be the 800 meter race on Sunday. 2 heats, first heat and the winner had a great finishing time of 5:13. Okay, tactically all I need to do in my race is come in 2nd. That was my plan. So I got out and hung with the first few guys and on the final lap I was in 4th position. The guy in front of me brought me back up to the second place guy where for a moment he left the inside open where I was going to sneak thru but thought better not to and waited until the last turn to make my move. I crossed the finish line in 2nd place. Exactly how I planned it. However, in the previous heat of the 800 3 guys would finish with faster times than me so I ended up in 5th place.
Finally the 4 x 400 relay on Sunday afternoon I would drop down an age group to complete with the 40 year old relay team. Racing against the same TNT team I had lost to last year in the 4 x 400. I was happy to be leading off this time instead of anchoring the relay. I was gassed and hurting but so isn’t everyone else by Sunday afternoon from a weekend of competitive racing at the highest level. I took off and hung on, that’s about all I can say. I handed off to Brock Butler hoping he had just enough to give us a great 400, he did and he handed off to Delvin Dinkins who closed the gap down between us and TNT then he handed off to Rob Schwartz who was nursing a sore knee to bring us home for the bronze medal.
This was my 3rd USATF Masters Indoor Championships and my best competition results to date. I had managed the medal trifecta (gold, silver and bronze). I have the best team mates anyone could ask for. They support you, encourage you, instruct you, and cheer for you… Thanks Greater Philly Track Club members and those that traveled with them…