Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 US Indoor Track Championships, Day 2 - Albuquerque, NM

I was fortunate to make it to both days of the USIndoor Track Championships this year thanks in part to friends over at TheRunning Hub and their Nike rep who kicked down a few tickets. I watched the races with Liz on Saturday and John on Sunday. John thought that Sunday’s meet may have been the first one he’d attended in some 30 years (ever?) where he wasn’t coaching or competing. Quite the streak.

Alright, so Day 2 started with the hurdle heats, men’s long jump, shot put, and pole vault. Here’s the run-down:

60m Hurdles - The women’s hurdles heats were notable in that meet headliner Lolo Jones scratched, which was disappointing. She was definitely one of a handful of athletes I had wanted to see. Life’s tough. On the men’s side all the favorites moved on. David Oliver grabbed the last qualifier. Decathlete Ashton Eaton scratched.

Long Jump – The long jump was notable because it was won by decathlete Ashton Eaton. That’s no joke. The dude jumped 26’5’’ to knock off runner-up William Claye who put up the year’s three longest triple-jumps in the world on Saturday evening. Eaton is coming home from London with a gold medal. The guy is special.

Men's shot champion, Reese Hoffa

Shot Put – In the women’s shot, Jillian Camarena-Williams defended her title with a throw of 64’2’’, one inch short of the American record she set two weeks ago. She won by a foot, third place was six feet back. The men’s shot was incredible. Seriously, watching field events at the elite level - live - is a ton of fun. Aside from the men’s 400m, the men’s shot put may be the most talent heavy event in American track and field. The four big names were Olympians Adam Nelson, Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa, and defending champ Ryan Whiting. Cantwell and Whiting may be the biggest men I’ve ever seen. Hoffa is smaller but like afro-hulk smaller. Nelson looks fairly normal until he approaches the circle at which point he goes berserker and starts talking shit to no one in particular. There seriously should have been a cash-bar set up by the shot pit, it was awesome. Well, Hoffa won out with a throw of 71’4’’. Whiting was 6’’ back for runner-up, and the both of them are heading to Istanbul for Worlds. Cantwell was just short and Nelson had a couple good throws that were negated by fouls. The top three throws were 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best in the world this year. I was happy to have seen Nelson compete after following his career for several years. The guy’s a legend.

Olympian Adam Nelson

Men’s Pole Vault – The vault was wild. Guys were launching themselves into the air over laughably tall heights.  Former world champion Brad Walker crushed the field with a vault of 19’2’’. He then moved the bar to 6 meters (19’9’’ish?) which only nine men have ever cleared indoors apparently. He didn’t join the group but it was pretty cool watching him try.  

Vault champion Brad Walker - photo curtesy of letsrun.com

Women’s High Jump – Chaunte Lowe received the biggest crowd reaction of the day with a meet and new American record leap of 6’7’’ in the high jump. Another performance that didn’t look even close to possible until we all saw it happen right in front of us. Chaunte also had impossible six-pack abs.  

OK, hard to beat, but on deck was all the running we’d been waiting for - the finals of the 400m, 800m, and 1500m, and closing with the 60m dash and a non Lolo Jones 60m hurdles final.

400m – Favorite Sanya Richards blitzed the field with yet another world leading time of 50.71, just off the American record. She was awarded her medal by her husband and New York Giants football player Aaron Ross. I was actually standing next to Ross during one point in the meet and noticed the guy was wearing Louis Vitton jeans and was alarmingly chiseled looking. WTF? Turns out he was an NFL cornerback with two Superbowl rings. So there you go. In the men’s 400m, Gil Roberts claimed the title with a world leading 45.39 in spite of the large gold ban chains and sunglasses he carried around for two laps of the track. Brycen Spratling of Pittsburgh closed well over the last 50m to grab 4th in 46.16. Triple-yoy g’damnit.  

800m – Duane Solomon repeats in 1:48.58, Mark Wieczorek and just misses a spot on the World’s team with a third place finish in 1:49:96. Wieczorek was rocking his same Salvation Army t-shirt as he did in the heats. He also had a fanclub in the stands that were wearing striped t-shirts and blue headbands. On the women’s side Erica Moore lead from the gun, dominating defending champ Phoebe Wright and the rest of the women’s field in a finish of 2:01.

1500m – Former Colorado Buff Jenny Simpson doubled back from her 3000m title on Saturday to win the women’s 1500m. Fellow New Balance athlete Brenda Martinez nearly closed a 10 meter gap on the last lap to finish a shade behind, both finishing in 4:15. The men’s race was a real tactical affair for the first three laps with US Champion Matt Centrowitz up front. Doubling back from a disappointing finish the night before, Nike’s Galen Rupp tried to steal the race with two laps to run. Defending champ Jeff See tried to gain position, got tangled up and went down to the boards. Centrowitz left the race timed just right to power past Rupp in the final straight but the crafty Leo Manzano came from nowhere and rolled past them both to claim the win in 4:08.05. Russell Brown and Garrett Heath were in the field but never challenged or covered any of the moves up front.

Simpson leads the women's 1500m field - photo curtesy of letsrun.com
Manzano steals victory from Centrowitz and Rupp - photo curtesy of letsrun.com   
Post-race, Centrowitz in the interview queue

60m Hurdles – I had keyed myself up a bit to see Dexter Faulk walk all over the field in the men’s hurdles final. Faulk lined-up and then false started twice. The officials let him run anyway for some reason but he faded badly. Strange end to an otherwise fine meet.

All kinds of track royalty were roaming the arena once again, mostly track royalty of the Nike affiliation I began to notice. I nodded hellos to Oregon coach Vin Lananna, Alberto Salazar, and John Chaplin. Gold medalist and multiple world champ Allen Johnson was there to present awards.   

I stopped at the press tables and said hello to a couple of the bloggers setup there. The guys from HouseofRun were real friendly, and both were amped to hear that I had been reading/listening to their meet recap from Day 1. They had an illuminating interview with Olympian Ato Bolden who delved into the finer points of the sprint competitions. Anyway, good stuff.  An outstanding weekend. Lots to see, lots to write about. And back to the trails for me now. 

Day 1 photos and write-up here - HighDesertDirt
Results for Day 2 here - FlashResults
House of Run recap and podcast here - HouseofRun.com
Day 2 photo album here - Letsrun.com
Distance races recap here - Writingaboutrunning.com

Last year's report here - 2011 US Indoor Track & Field Championships

Sunday, February 26, 2012

US Indoor Track & Field Championships 2012 - Albuquerque, NM

This weekend is the third consecutive year that Albuquerque has hosted the National Indoor Track & Field Championships. It’s a great event and makes for some super convenient spectating of elite caliber athletes. In a Friday night press briefing, the sport’s governing body announced that the meet will be returning for another two years, so this is all fairly outstanding from where I stand. Good show. 

Alright, last night’s meet started with the 60m hurdle events, sprints and triple jump. Several world-leading performances. People really getting after it. Here’s the run-down:

60m Hurdles - The women’s hurdles heats were cancelled, so no Lolo Jones, however Nike’s Dexter Faulk was amazing to watch in the men’s race, running a world leading 7.4sec winning by a huge margin. David Oliver and Terrence Trammell were in the race but Faulk crushed them. Ashton Eaton, a favorite for decathlon gold this Fall, ran a strong race and will move on to the semis. He’s on the entry list for several other events as well.  

The facilities. Photos of actual racing athletes turn to blurs
60m Dash - In the men’s 60m dash heats, former gold medalist Justin Gatlin lined up and ran a world leading time of 6.5sec. Was not expecting that. A couple of other former Olympians were running, Shawn Crawford and Wallace Spearmon, though they were never in contention. Both guys specialize in the 200m so maybe they were just working on their starts? I don’t know jack about sprinting, but these guys and gals were amazing to watch in person. Spearmon was actually pretty tall, towering over the other sprinters.

Triple Jump - The triple jump was sweet. Nike’s William Claye jumped a world leading distance in three of his four attempts, the longest being just short of 58-feet. Christian Taylor, the current world champion and Claye’s former teammate at Florida finished 2nd over a foot back. Taylor only had one legal jump and five fouls. It caught my eye that Taylor was jumping for Chinese sports apparel maker Li-Ning rather than adidas or Nike. So that’s cool but the guy got wrecked by his bud so he’s got some work to do before August.

View from the banked turn, women's triple jump beyond

Alright, pretty compelling stuff. First-rate performances. Lots of fun to watch. From here the meet opened up to heats of the 400m, 800m, men’s high jump, women’s pole vault, and the 3000m. 

Women’s Pole Vault – Everyone was watching the vaulters. American record holder Olympic medalist hopeful Jen Suhr came in at near 15 feet when only two other competitors from the field were still clearing heights. Suhr won with a clearance of 15-3’’, then moved the bar up to the American record of 16-feet and scratched on three straight jumps. Pretty sweet. Suhr looked like a badass. 

High Jump – Last year we saw Jesse Williams beat a bunch of guys that he looked like he had no business beating. He went on to win last fall’s World Championship in Korea. This year he was a crowd favorite but was having some problems with his technique. New York’s Jamie Nieto looked to have the thing won at 7’-5” then Williams pulled it together and cleared, then successfully cleared at 7’-6” to defend his title. Clutch as hell. I guess that’s what champions do, it was fairly awesome actually.

400m – The quarter mile was a bit of a blur since we had our focus on the high jump and vault. Sanya Richards looked like the one to beat. I like Mississippi St’s Tavaris Tate on the men’s side because of his impossible leg/ass-to-torso ratio. Brycen Spratling of Pittsburgh ran well so we’re rooting for him too, n’at. Several of the 400m guys ran in sunglasses, but Frankie Wright Gil Roberts ran with glasses and at least two giant gold chains. Niiiice.

800m – Also a bit of a blur. I know Alan Webb was on the entry list which sounded interesting but he saved us all the disappointment of running badly by not starting. Defending champ Duane Solomon and some guy named Mark Wieczorek had the two fastest qualifiers at 1:48.8. Wieczorek ran in a striped t-shirt from JC Penny and blue sweatband, so I’m pretty much going to have to pull for him in today’s final. On the women's side Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore looked to be head-and-shoulders above the rest. 

Women's 3000m - start. (l-r) Bonds, Areson, Houlihan

Men's 3000m - start. (l-r) Bruce, Rupp, Adams, Lagat, Lomong
3000m – The marquee events sadly were near exact replicas of last year’s races. In the women’s field a slow 2000m was then lead out by CU alum Jenny Simpson (Go Buffs!) with recent US XC Champion Sara Hall in tow. At the bell Simpson powered away with ease to defend her title. Simpson of course was the surprise winner of last Fall’s 1500m World Championship. That’s how they do things up in Boulder sons. The men’s race started with excitement, Galen Rupp took the lead from the gun hammering out a quick pace followed only by Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong. They went through 800m in 2:04, and 1600m in 4:11. There was a huge gap back to the pack led by steeple specialist Ben Bruce. With four laps to go Rupp started showing his teeth and did not look comfortable. Lagat went to the front followed by Lomong and after a couple more laps Rupp was dropped and he packed it in. On the backstretch of the bell lap Lagat unloaded with his awe-inspiring kick, an absolute thing of beauty. Seriously some video-game type acceleration. Lagat finished in 7:47 with Lomong several seconds behind, and was then swarmed by photographers and three sections of the crowd as he helped several children onto the track to take photos with. He held court for photos, interviews, handshakes, hugs, and autographs for half an hour. Certainly an above average ending to a great day of racing. 

Adulation for Lagat after his win (bottom left). Several in the crowd were actually holding hand-made Lagat signs during and after the race.

Lagat trackside

Like last year, some of the greatest athletes at the meet were in the crowd rather than competing on the track. Olympic Decathlete Dan O’Brien was walking the floor, taping interviews with some of the day’s showcase winners. World Record triple-jumper Willie Banks was presenting awards. Ato Bolden was around but I didn't see him. In the run-up to the women’s 3000m I looked to my right and noticed Paula Radcliffe sitting five seats away from us, unbothered by those sitting around her and apparently un-recognized. At evening’s end, crowds gathered for photographs with Bernard Lagat and a large contingent of local elites congratulated him on his win. Almost un-noticed in the stands behind all of this I caught sight of Mo Farah himself, the fastest man on the planet. I got his attention with a ‘yo Mo!’ just to be sure. He smiled and nodded back like a boss. 

Current fastest guy on the planet - Mo Farah of Britain

Related Posts:
Day 2 photos and report here - HighDesertDirt
Meet rsults here
Meet Preview here - Writingaboutrunning
Nice commentary of Day 1 events, and interview (podcast) - HouseofRun

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wheeler Peak, Taos NM

Wheeler Peak New Mexico
Wheeler Peak, the far high point, New Years 2012
The wife and I spent our New Years in the backcountry near Taos. Specifically, we hiked into the Bull-of-the-Woods yurt two miles northeast of Taos Ski Valley. From our toasty wood-stove fired base camp our party spent the holiday-weekend roaming around the nearby hills by ski and snowshoe. There's plenty of terrain to tour around on nordic skis as well as some decent backcountry skiing on the slopes of Gold Hill. I was drawn like moth-to-flame to the Wheeler Ridge which stretches south from basecamp toward the highest point in the state, Wheeler Peak, 13,161ft.

Grabbing the first ascent of the new year seemed pretty keen to me so while the others were out ski-touring I taped up my heels, stepped into my boots, and set off up the trail on a New Year's adventure run with three hours of daylight and a mostly full moon to light the way.

bull woods yurt nm
Base Camp

Wheeler Peak trail taos
Through tree-cover to the ridgeline. Light-footing the drifts to avoid death by post-hole
Fast and light. Snowshoes for impassable sections

Wheeler Peak trail taos
Taos Ski Valley in the distance
Wheeler Peak trail taos
Just 5mi to Wheeler, up a few hills

Wheeler Peak trail taos
Gaining the ridge. Some evidence of trail though better footing to be found off trail

Kachina Peak New Mexico
Big-horn sheep, a ram and ewe. Taos Ski Valley and Kachina Peak in the distance (12,481ft)

Big horn sheep nm
I steered well around these two. They didn't have interest in me either fortunately
Wheeler Peak ridge Taos
I thought Wheeler might be behind that big guy top left. My route crossed through the bowl to the left

Wheeler Peak ridge Taos
Gunning for the high ridge in fading light. It was beautiful

new years sunset mountains
To the west, the first sunset of the new year

Latir Peak Wilderness
To the north, the ridgeline approach, the Latir Peak Wilderness and Culebra range further north, the Spanish Peaks far right, Blanca Peak range distant center-left

Wheeler Peak New Mexico
From my high point I see I'm short by a (very scenic) mile. Wheeler at far right
Fine effort, good run. A little brandy to power the return trip
Wheeler Peak full moon
The moon helps guide the run home

The trail was at least 6mi from camp to summit (a two mile head start from the trailhead). I felt like I was really moving and would steal the summit for certain. In the end there were four false summits on the approach and I made it up only three. Gazed across the fourth and destination-fifth (Wheeler) as the sun set behind the Jemez. The summit push was another 1mi+ of snowy and technical ridgeline, across and back in the dark, which didn't look like fun so I tipped some brandy in a New Years toast and turned it around. Well played Wheeler, well played sir.

Summit gear included gaiters, ski poles, snowshoes (precautionary), a headlamp and a thermos of hot chocolate and brandy. With the snow, the primary challenge was route-finding - and retracing the route on the return (super-important).

I was really excited to be out in a mostly-full moon. The lights of Taos Ski Valley shined invitingly from below the ridge as I ran along hoping from rock-to-rock and vaulting snow cornices with the aid of my poles. What would the new year bring? Anything I will it to I suppose. Nearly anything is possible if you just get out and make it happen.

Related Links

 - New Years 2010-11: Cumbres Pass Yurt, Neff Mountain CO

View Wheeler Peak in a larger map

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Mexico Runners on the National Stage

Ross Millington UNM
Millington last Fall
This last weekend there was some New Mexico rep at a few of the slew of huge meets going on around the country. Thought I'd pen a note of recognition.

The brightest performances came from a couple of UNM Lobo runners up at the University of Washington Indoor Invite. Senior Ross Millington torched a 4th place finish in the mens 3000m finishing in 7:49.11. The performance ranks right about top-20 all-time for a collegian indoors, and sets a new UNM school record breaking the previous standard held by former NCAA champion Lee Emanuel (2010) (7:51:20). Junior Josephine Moultrie knocked five seconds off the two year old UNM indoor mile record with a 4:42.30 finish, good enough for 16th place in the open womens mile. Moultrie re-wrote school indoor records in the 600m (1:33.21) and 800m (2:09.27) just two weeks ago at the UNM Lobo Invite here in Albuquerque. The 800m record had stood for over 30 years (Sue Vigil, 1979).

My favorite championship race, the US Cross Country Nationals was run Saturday out in St. Louis, MO. Santa Fe’s Ben Fletcher made a go of it, rolling to a 28th place finish in the open men’s 12K, 39min9sec, following a 47th place finish in last year’s race. WINGS of America runners dominated team scoring in the junior races. 

In winter news, last weekend was the legendary Crested Butte Alley Loop Ski Races. Los Alamos' Tarik Saleh and a contingent of the Southwest Nordic team were there and he has posted some photos and a sweet report.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Things Not Seen on Treadmills, II

Fritz Scholder's, Orange Dog & Friend (1937)

Fritz Scholder orange dog

Finishing an evening ride back in the Fall, I nearly wrecked the bike into a parked car when I saw this out of the corner of my eye. The original, sitting in the portrait window of the Windsor Betts gallery on Lincoln and Marcy. Much larger than I'd imagined, maybe 6'x4'. Went back the following week for another look....and it was gone.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Santa Fe WinterBrew

pints of beer
Last night was the first annual Santa Fe WinterBrew, a craft beer festival featuring breweries from around the state in conjunction with the second annual Santa Fe Winter Fiesta. It’s a crying shame that I forgot the camera because this thing was freaking awesome.

Sid and I arrived at 630pm and stood in line for a half hour to get in, by then the commemorative pint glasses were long gone. I was told they had 570 glasses on hand and something like 1500 people showed up over the course of the evening. This was at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion, the place was past capacity at 630pm to allow anyone else in. Holy shitballs! Along with the breweries and beer we naturally saw a ton of people – Tom and Sheila, Palmer and Lanell, Scott Hussion and Tommy Olsen from the ‘hood, Kennedy and his new family, and Herman who was walking the queue outside handing out discount passes. I think just about everyone in town under the age of 40 had to have been there. I’d never seen anything like it. 

santa fe farmers market
Packed the house - Santa Fe Farmer's Market Pavilion
high desert brewing beer
Some recognition for our namesake High Desert Brewing out of Las Cruces who brew a fine Anniversary Ale IPA
Waiting to get in, Sid and I were sincerely concerned that the beer would run dry since the place was such a zoo. Thankfully it did not. We bought ourselves some pint glasses at the Blue Heron Brewing table and proceeded to sample just about all the stouts and porters brewed in the state of New Mexico. Most were outstanding. Chama River Brewing was exceptional. I tried a couple of Black IPAs - something I’d never heard of or even seen before - from the Santa Fe Brewing Co. and Tractor Brewing Co. out of Los Lunas. These were far and away the winning beers from where I was standing. Tom Anderson insisted that the Turtle Mountain Brewing IPA had no equal. I respect Tom but he was clearly misinformed. 

new mexico winter brew

This event, without question needs to be repeated next year. And they need to double the size of the venue to fit everyone inside. Beer plus snow is an unstoppable combination, the lack of photos does not do it justice. Apparently there was an after-party at Second Street Railyard that must have been fun (and rowdy) as all hell. Sad to have missed it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Santa Fe Winter Fiesta

Santa Fe Winter Fiesta
This is the second year of Santa Fe’s Winter Fiesta which runs through the week. I didn’t make it to any events last year but did notice its inaugural launch. On the second go-around this year the organizers seem to really have things together - lots of promotions, lots of visibility. The whole thing is a great idea as far as I see it.

So I bring this up because the Mrs. and I made it out to a Winter Fiesta screening of a big-mountain ski movie last night at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. The film was All.I.Can, one of this year’s Banff Film Festival champion films. The film’s takeaway was generally that young stoner-skiers from British Columbia should most definitely not be fucked with. These dudes will casually lob a backflip midway through some of the steepest scariest descents on the planet, stomp the landing and ski off. I had previously posted a less-adrenaline inducing clip from the film with JP Auclair and some do-it-yourself-terrain-park freestyle street-skiing that was fantastic. View the film's trailer here.

ski all i can
The screening was great and there was a pretty sizable local crowd the showed up to watch it (maybe 200-plus?). Pre-screening raffle prizes included lift passes to Taos (nearly cried when I came up empty on this one), six-packs from Santa Fe Brewing Co. (bit of sniffle), gear from REI Santa Fe, and ski helmets from Santa Fe Mountain Sports. A Blake’s LotaBurger lunchwagon was setup outside the Pavilion serving burgers and fires which I thought was pretty sweet.

Tickets were discounted at the door with a Winter Fiesta pass. There was a convenient promotion booth also at the door where you could win a Winter Fiesta pass and the wife hit the jackpot for us both. The passes provide discounts to other Fiesta events including this Friday’s WinterBrew Fest presented by the New Mexico Brewers Guild (yes!), a lift-pass to Ski Santa Fe, discounted day pass to Santa Fe’s Climbing Gym, and deals for various area happy-hours. The Winter Fest guys and participating area businesses seem to have really done a first-rate job putting a focus on things in Santa Fe that kick a lot of ass. All of this is a welcome development.

A sweet stop-motion video short about a caveman guy that can rip.
Salomon's Freeski - The Man and a Mammoth


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