Monday, July 30, 2012

Savannah Marathon: Four Down, Fourteen to go!

An awesome month!
Had a good week - heck, a good four weeks, as the focus for Savannah Marathon prep has been volume and volume. 84, 81, 80 and 80 have been the weekly mileage totals. One more week of easy stuff and then we begin to mix in the fun workouts: half mile repeats, tempo runs, and dare I say it.... 400s on the track. Also, lost 20 pounds in the last 5 1/2 weeks. Looking for twenty more before marathon day. With fourteen weeks to go, who knows. Might get high school skinny (doubtful, as I weighed 139 pounds soaking wet in high school).


Luckily, it's been an easy month to run. After all, it's summer, Olympic track and field (and marathon) are just around the corner and I keep getting closer to 100,000 miles (see http://runspittle.blogspot.com/2012/05/beware-of-mayan-mind-trick.html for a few more details on that). Should get there in late September. 


Then what? Well, there is always 200,000 kilometers (yeah, that's 124,274.24 miles, I already checked).


Sad about the withdrawal of Paula Radcliffe from the Olympic Women's Marathon this weekend. Paula has been such a studette and a major inspiration to everyone for SO many years. It would have been nice if she had been able to get in one final 26.2 in her home country. Still going to be an incredible race though with Shalane, Kara and hopefully Desi (nursing some injuries) toeing the start against the East Africans.


Also, way excited about the men's and women's 10K, 5K, steeple and of course the men's marathon. Can't wait. Distance races rule!


Run on!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rest in Peace, Pat Porter!

I took this picture of Pat at the 84 Olympics.
A cross country legend died in a terrible plane crash yesterday and it makes me sad. Yes, I know that death is part of life but Pat Porter's death touched me in a lot of different ways. First, there is just the tragedy of a life cut short (he was 53). Then when you consider that he died with his son, Conner, 15,   leaving behind his wife Trisha and their daughter Shannon it becomes even more heart wrenching. Lastly, while I wouldn't claim to be a close personal friend or anything, I knew Pat Porter. And frankly, he was one of the good guys.


Pat Porter was the poster child for "local boy makes good." A 4:29 miler in high school, he was passed over by most of the big schools and landed at Adams State after a short stint at Metro College. Through hard work and focus, he just kept getting better and better culminating in 8 straight National Cross Country Championships and berths on two Olympic teams. There will probably never be another runner who will dominate the US cross country scene the way Pat did.


I have four very fond memories of Pat Porter.


1) I was sitting in Coach Joe I. Vigil's office at Adams State College the day I first met Pat.  I had made a ritual of stopping in to chat with Coach Vigil whenever I had the opportunity to make the drive from Monte Vista to Alamosa. We were having our usual discussion of training and such when Pat walked in. He introduced himself, sat down, chatted with us, reported his morning workout with his Coach and was on his way. I thought the fact that he participated in our conversation was pretty cool.


The thing I remember the most from our first meeting was that he clearly called me, Coach Sands that day. And the way he said it had this sound of respect to it, like someone who relished the coach/athlete relationship and valued the support of coaches anywhere. And why wouldn't he? During his heyday, he and Coach Vigil were an incredibly successful team. In the dozen or so times I ran into Pat after that day, I was always "Coach Sands." I thought that was pretty cool too.


2) I was able to watch him work out a few times in Cole Park. 16 x 880 once at a lung searing 7600 feet altitude. Most in the 2:05 range, the last ones under two. YIKES. And he was such an "all in" kind of runner. Terrain didn't matter, the elements didn't matter (and believe me, we could have some pretty interesting elements in the San Luis Valley), the task in front of him didn't matter. He just went after it. He was a mudder, a blue collar kind of runner. And when he made the Olympic team in 1984, the entire Valley celebrated.


3) A struggling teacher and a nurse didn't have a ton of money in 1984, but we had enough to pack up the boys (Matt was 3 and Ryan was about 6 months old) and drive to Los Angeles to see the Olympics. We could pick ONE session to attend in the Coliseum, we chose the evening of Pat's 10,000 meter prelim. We yelled and cheered like crazy and figured we were primarily responsible for him qualifying for the final. We thought it was pretty exciting. 


What topped the race, though, was Pat coming over to the stands afterward and thanking us for cheering and supporting so much. We chatted for just a minute, mostly us oozing about how well he'd done, he did a little patting of the boys on the head, and he was off with the words, "Thanks again, Coach Sands."


4) Of the two major movies about Steve Prefontaine, I believe the best is Without Limits. My reasoning is very simply, among other things, it has the best and most authentic running scenes. And those running scenes would not have been nearly as great as they were without Pat Porter in the role of Lasse Viren. I do not know who cast that role, but they couldn't have done it better. Scruffy Finnish beard and all, Pat didn't just give us a guy trying to act like Viren. He gave us Viren.




Just last Friday, Pat Porter was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. I listened to his speech this morning on youtube and the thing that struck me the most was here was this great runner, being given this great honor and all he did was talk about all of the people that had been there for him and guided him during his career. Typical Pat Porter.


I've never met Pat's wife, Trisha. And I cannot even come close to understanding her grief to lose both a husband and a son in such a tragic accident. But my prayers are with her and their daughter, Shannon in their time of sadness and despair. 


The running world has lost one of the greatest of all time: the cross country king, the Panther, the great Pat Porter. Rest in Peace, Pat.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Miles of Trials - Oly Trials Day 8

Another edition of one of my favorite events, the Olympic Track and Field Trials has come to an end. The final day had some ups and downs, the biggest down being Bershawn Jackson's fourth place finish in the 400 m hurdles. That's got to be the worst spot in the world, especially when your living depends on how you place in the big one. There are no big purses or jackpots for anyone but the top echelon of runners. The 15th place golfer in the AT&T National made $113,000+ today. And that was just THIS weekend's tournament. No such windfalls in Track and Field.

The feature races, for me, the 1500 meters both went sort of as expected. Morgan Uceny, Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson will represent the women and Leo Manzano, Matt Centrowitz and Andrew Wheatley, the men. In both cases, I'm not sure that anyone better could have made it. At this time, this is our best. The women, especially, could do quite well in London.

Of course, the Trials aren't actually over as Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh will faceoff tomorrow in the Great Runoff of 2012 for the third and final slot in the Women's 100 meter dash. After her dominance in the 200, I had half expected Felix to give the position to her teammate. Then again, as previously stated, this is what these people do for a LIVING.

All in all, the Trials were great and covered fairly well by NBC. I'm hoping for a much greater depth of coverage in London, especially in the distance races (although this was NBC's best job to date). Nothing, of course, compares to the good old days of 1988, when I had a monster 10 foot satellite dish and could get free feeds from eight different countries PLUS the US coverage had packages where you could just watch what you wanted. All Track and Field, all the time! Five weeks till Olympic Track..... bring it on!

On a personal note, I lived through a very hot 18 miler today. Ending temp was 94 degrees. I went through 110 ounces of H2O. Unbelievably, I actually felt pretty good. Got to the halfway point of the year yesterday at 1330 miles. It's been a good 2012!

Allyson Felix Rules and Did I Hear Tim Tebow? Oly Trials Day 7

You can say what you want about 100 meter runoffs and/or coin flips, in the middle of all of that hoopla, Allyson Felix remained calm, cool, collected and FAST! She completely dropped the hammer on the entire 200 m field last night in Eugene to highlight a fairly boring slate of track and field (translation: no distance events). 

Felix came out of the blocks quickly and seemed to hit a whole other gear coming out of the curve. Props to her for the great time (21.69) and her dominance.

On a completely different topic, I have noticed a huge amount of post race praying (or contemplation or knee-dropping exhaustion) during the Trials. That, coupled with the constant interview references to God and Jesus, have me wondering something: why was/is Tim Tebow such a big deal?

Athletes have been praising God and thanking Jesus for decades. I had no problem with it then and no problem with it now. In fact, I can't imagine a day without some appreciation and/or gratitude to my Creator. But where is the outrage at the Trials?

Yeah, I know, track and field doesn't have nearly the impact of something really "important" like football (yes, you did notice complete and utter sarcasm) but I still am perplexed. Tebow is definitely not the first, nor will he be the last religious/spiritual athlete. So why the double standard?

Just wondering...