Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Millrose experience

I knew the tradition, the history, but I didn't know just how much I'd see.  Didn't know just how much I'd be immersed in it.   The Armory isn't really 'an armory' per se ... it is the 'Amory Track and Field Center.'  A far cry from the assembled 160m wooden track they used to use at Madison Square Garden for 80 yrs, or for the Mason Dixon Games at Broadbent Arena. THIS was a permanent indoor track and field stadium with a nice fast high-banked Mondo track.

View from above

And... the history was everywhere... a museum of track and field with photos going back 100+ yrs to the days they ran on a board track on the roof of Wanamaker's Dept store warehouse in Manhattan (origin name of the famous "Wanamaker Mile"), through the decades to the modern era.

Track and Field History

It was quite a classy affair, with all the officials dressed in black suits and ties, VIP trackside buffets and wine bars, meeting rooms filled with well dressed people, rows and rows of media tables, television cameras, NBC staff, former Olympians and champions of the sport, and... the elite competitors.

VIP Buffet

Unfortunately, the printed program was messed up ... my name was not mentioned, and the rest of the guys were listed under the wrong team name.

Race Preparations
All the competitors were allowed to hang out at trackside on the back stretch.  I was at the end of the back stretch, near the 60m finish and the polevault pit.  I got to warm up a bit on the track, a red Mondo with the highest banks I've seen.  Unlike Birmingham, even lane one is banked.   Our 4x400m relay team - Greater Philadelphia Track Club - posed for a picture on the track.  We got our bibs and reported to the 'stable' below 30 min before.   Then, we walked up the stairs 'race ready' to the staging area to get our numbers and line up.

GPTC M50 4x400m Millrose team: Ray Parker, William Yelverton, Scott Landis, John Curtis

The Race
I knew the SWS team would be the team to beat, defending champions, American record holders.  They ran the M50s and M60s teams together, I was stuck up on the bank, the forward upper stagger with 2 other guys (in a staggered waterfall start).  I beat my group easily and led down the bank.   Was surprised to see Getulio pass me on the turn and lead at the break.  He ended up running 2 seconds faster than last yr, a 54.70 split to my 55.97.  He had me by about 10m at the first exchange.  I really didn't think he was that fast, then again, he's a world champion 400m hurdler, he ran 52.9 last season.  We continued to lose ground as Marcus ran a blazing 54.40 split against Ray's 57.37 on second leg.  We lost by almost 7 seconds to the SWS who broke a 13 yr old M50 World Indoor Record.   I was the oldest person of the top 2 teams but had the fastest split, on my team.   Our splits were 55.97, 57.37, 57.48, 56.05.   The following photos from my leg first lap.  Looking at the race clock on the USATF TV video, my handoff was completed when the clock said 55.4.  It was an OK leg.  Happy to have run with a great bunch of guys.  Thanks to Chuck who picked me up and returned me to my hotel.

Staggered waterfall start

Leading on the back stretch

Just before the break

Just after the break

The SWS World Record time was 3:39.88 - they averaged 54.97 sec per leg - faster than my outdoor PR.  They might have even run faster if David, SWS anchor didn't have to lap the old guys.  Of course all of them are in the age group below mine - M50.  They broke their American record of 3:43 from last year by a lot.  SWS time was even faster than the M55 outdoor World Record - 3:40.62.

Our time was still fast... 3:46.84.  The previous American club record before SWS broke it last yr was 3:47.  Almost two seconds faster than our American Record M55 team ran in France - 3:48.33.

Since this was the first year the Masters 4x400 at Millrose was considered to be a "Masters Invitational Event" affiliated with USATF, unlike previous years, USATF only supplied medals for the First Place winners.  Mark, the guy in charge of this program said that this was because "they wanted the medals to really mean something" ... since some of divisions had just 4 or so entries... most teams would 'medal'.   It's OK, I have plenty of medals, but a silver would have been nice.

The Meet
This was a meet with many different levels - World Elite to kids.  From my vantage point, I spent much of the time during the meet sitting by the track on the end of the back stretch, track at chin level unless I stood.  I saw Olympic Champion Ashton Eaton sprint down the back stretch warming up.  He then stopped his warmup, picked up a stack of hurdles and helped set up the hurdles for the women's elite 60m hurdles race.   This was Allyson Felix's first Millrose in over a decade and she was racing NCAA Champion Jenna Prandini in one of her first pro races.  Allyson won convincingly in 7.14.  I got this photo as she walked by, bouquet in hand.   What long and beautiful legs she has.  This was the first race I had been at where the starting blocks were wired with sensors and speakers, like they have at most major international championship meets.

Allyson Felix
Afterward, I watched the women's 5000m race.  Molly Huddle led most of the way and on he last lap was nipped by Betsy Saina, losing by just over 1/10 second after 25 laps of the track.   I was surprised at how muscular and attractive Huddle looked in person... for a distance runner.
Molly Huddle

The men's elite 400m race I captured on video.   Since the runners raced in lanes on the first lap, the lane 6 runner - US Champion David Verburg would pass inches from my face.  Check out the video to see my view.

I saw Dwayne Solomon win the 800m elite in 1:47.5.  (Too bad MTSU's Eluid Rutto hadn't run, he could have won it... as he just ran 1:46 last week).

The women's 800m elite race was also a helluva race.  Ajee Wilson nipping Brenda Martinez by 0.05 at the tape.

Also saw a 16' women's polevault - one of the highest in history and a Greek National record.

The trademark event that closes the meet during the NBC televised broadcast is the men's Wanamaker Mile.  I saw Matt Centrowitz defend his title, running a 3:50.63.   I got this photo of him below celebrating with the crowd as I walked by.  My brother called me during this race and since I couldn't hear him with the noise, I put it on Facetime and showed him the race from my view.

Matt after winning the Wanamaker Mile

Chuck suggested we go eat at Coogan's on Broadway.  Wow, I never knew a place like this existed.  Only in NYC.  It was a 'track and field pub.'   Track uniforms lined the ceiling, famous singlets enshrined in frames, track shoes, batons, photos everywhere lined the walls.  It was track and field heaven.  We got a table for our team and track and field 'royalty' was everywhere.  Olympians at every other table.  Dwight Stones sitting next to us.  Leo Manzano shaking the the hand of the new HS mile record holder - 3:57 miler Drew Hunter, Eamonn Coghlan posing for photos with former Wanamaker mile Champions.  Every time a champion or olympian would enter the room, the enthusiastic owner would call a toast.  It was unbelievable.


Eamonn Coghlan poses with Drew Hunter in his new Oregon jersey, Dwight Stones applauds
Berard Lagat's singlet on the wall - top right

Olympic Silver Medalist Leo Manzano with Drew Hunter
A nice NYT article came out on the Millrose today, even mentions Coogan's pub. Check it out.
Also, this article from NBC.

HERE is our race video.

I took a guilty pleasure in mentioning on FB that our M50 relay team ran 2 seconds faster than the Sewanee College men's 4x400m team did last Saturday (my local DIII University).

It was a great experience and well worth my time. Glad I went.

Now, on to training and the Nationals.

1 comment:

  1. great experience...and to think you were "almost regretting" going.