Monday, October 22, 2018

The Huntsman Senior Games

This year I turned 50 and decided to celebrate by participating in the Huntsman World Senior Games. I had heard about this event for some time but I didn't realize how big of an event it is until witnessing it first hand. The games takes place every October in St. George, Utah. They offer over 30 different sporting events to participate in. It is the largest over age 50, mulit-sport event in the world. There are over 11,000 athletes who come from all over the world to participate over a two week period. That's as many athletes as participated in the Rio Olympics.

I signed up for table tennis, the 5K race, 3 on 3 basketball, and a basketball hot shot competition. My first event was table tennis. I'm pretty good at ping pong but I quickly learned this was not ping pong. Table tennis athletes have different rules and are very serious and skilled about their sport. I find myself getting beat up on in a hurry. The next day when we played against players with similar ratings, I was still getting smoked by grandmas. I was in awe of the skill level and look forward to improving my skills over the next year which shouldn't be hard since I only played about 15 minutes last year.

The next day I ran the 5K race. All the runners started together but you only compete with people in your similar age bracket. Since I just turned 50 I was pretty much the baby of the group. I saw some athletes in their 90's. I ran pretty fast but was still surprised by how many people who were older than me ran faster than I did. Even the slower athletes who struggled were inspirational to watch.

My third event was a basketball hot shot competition. It's a timed shooting challenge similar to around the world. Points are assigned according to the distance from the basket and you only have one minute to earn as many points as possible. There were some great shooters there and I was fortunate to be making most of my shots for that event.

My final event was 3 on 3 basketball. I made arrangements to play with 3 guys from California who were short a player. I had never met them before but things worked out for the best. We played well together and our different strengths complimented each other. We ended up doing great after a slow start.

At the end of the week I had won two gold medals, a bronze medal, and a 4th place ribbon from the events I participated in. I was impressed with the scope of the games and how well they were organized and managed with so many volunteers. The athletes really impressed me. They showed great sportsmanship, determination, and camaraderie. It was inspirational to see so many people who do not let age slow them down. Some were just enjoying participating in the sport they love and others were definitely competing at a high level and kicking but. I will definitely be going back next year.

I had such a good time and was so impressed that I signed up as an ambassador to the games. If you are over age 50 then I highly recommend you look into the Huntsman Senior Games.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Being Flexible-My first DNF

Photo by Ron Chaffin
In 2017 I was injured and unable to run any races. I spent last year recuperating and started training in early 2018 for the St. George Marathon. I've run this particular marathon 3 prior times and was hoping to get a PR this year. I put in more practice mileage this year than I ever had before and ran several several good half marathons so I was feeling pretty good leading up to the race.

Two days before the marathon I got sick. I had stomach cramps, nausea, and a head ache. I was up all night trying not to puke. I couldn't eat anything until lunch time the day before the race, so my carb loading efforts were thrown out the window. The morning of the race I was feeling a little better but still having stomach pain and felt weak. I was considering not running at all but I didn't just want to quit. I decided to run and see how things went.

As the buses drove us to the starting line it started to rain. It was a light drizzle but enough to get you wet after waiting an hour and a half for the race to start.  I found the 3:45 pacer before the race began and did a good job of staying ahead of him for the first 7 or 8 miles, but then I started getting stomach cramps again. I began to slow down and found myself walking for a few stretches after mile 10. I just didn't have my usual energy. It was much cooler this year, which was nice, but the rain made things harder than usual. By the time I got to mile 13 I decided I was not well enough to complete it. I may have been able to finish it with a very slow time but I would have taken a huge toll on my body and seeing how I would be participating in the Senior Games the following week, I didn't want to chance it.

The final straw that persuaded me to stop was when I looked down and saw I was pulling an Andy Bernard. I had two little blood circles around my nipples despite the fact I had applied plenty of Body Glide before the race. The rain and wet shirt had caused too much friction. I later noticed I was not the only runner suffering from this condition. I decided to call it a day and rest up and get better so I'd be able to compete next week.

I walked over to an aid station at mile 13 and asked if they had a shuttle. I was directed to a large white van parked across the street. I got on and saw about 16 other people on it who looked miserable. A few of them had elite runner's bodies, but looked like they were on death's door step. One guy blew his knee out and couldn't walk, some were cold from the rain. A few of them looked like they didn't know what to expect when they signed up and just weren't having any fun and decided to quit.

We all may have had different injuries, problems, or reasons for stopping, but one thing we had in common was that we were bummed out for not finishing the race. It was a very slow, somber, and quite ride back to the finish line. The depressing mood in the van carried over as we unloaded near the runner's recovery area but we did not cross the finish line, get medals, or get the usual post race food. Instead we just got to go pick up our bags and go home.

Instead of looking at this race as a failure since I got my first DNF (did not finish), I decided to look at it as having successfully completing a half marathon. My hat is off to all the runners who kept plugging away and did finish despite great adversity. Many of those people will be limping around next week, but the pain is worth the satisfaction of knowing they completed a very difficult task.

I respect all the runners regardless of their finish time for doing something hard. I also appreciate all the amazing volunteers who make the Saint George marathon such a great event each year.