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The adidas BOOST Meeting was an idea whose time has come. That one of the true heritage brands of sports footwear, adidas, had a wonderful track, named Adi Dassler Stadium, and had not hosted a track meet, surely seemed like something was missing.
 
Well, the first athletics meeting is now through one day, and the Adi Dassler Stadium hosted a meet of fast races, both short ones and long ones, which enthralled and entertained the crowd of two thousand plus fans.
 
What was wonderful to me about the meet? That the crowd was both young and old, with the very young children enjoying the meet as much as the teenagers.
 
The 400 meters was the first events, and David Verburg and Tony McQuay gave the crowd something to enjoy. David Verburg is a 44.41 400 meter runner, and Tony McQuay has run 44.42. This evening saw David Verburg get out very well, his head twisting, and his arms pumping, and his effort bringing him home first, in 45.41, winning over Tony McQuay, who ran 46.11.
 
In the women's 400 meters, it was Jessica Beard who broke the tape, running 52.78 over Maureen Jelegat, who ran 54.20. Beard looked in charge the entire way, running down the final stretch to the applause of the crowd.
 
The weather then looked menacing, and one wondered, as the clouds became darker, how the meet would fare?
 
The 200 meters for men was next, as Alonso Edwards, the Panamanian star who has taken so many wins over the past few years, won the race in 20.72. Alonso came off the turn in the lead, and held, it, evan as he was challenged by German Alexander Gladnitz, who ran 20.79.
 
The 10,000 meter races were what captivated the fans so much. The mens race got off fast, hitting the 1k in 2:43.86, and just kept from there.
 
It was obvious that Emmanuel Kipsang, the Kenyan Army Champion, Tebalue Zawude, the African 10,000m champion, Lauil Gebreselasse, the African 10,000m silver medalist, Bahranian Hassan Chahdi, as well as Vincent Chepkok, who has a 26:51 underneath him.
 
As the five of these runners churned around the track, the race announcer called all the fans to join him in lane three on the track. And most of them did, providing the battling runners clapping an encouragement. When Kipsang, then leading, hit the 5000m mark, in 13:45.06, one knew that this could be a fast race.
 
The goal seemed to get the World leader, and the pace kept getting quicker and quicker. Right before 4000 meters, Mr. Chepkok fell off the back, who would go on to finish fourth in 27:54.99. Hassan Chahdi made it through 6000 meters, and then, fell back, holding on to fifth place in a new NR for Bahrain of 27:56.48.
 
And now, running faster than their first half, Luil Gebreselasse, Emmanuel Kipsang and Tebalue Zawude traded laps, pushing the pace, and trying to break each other.
 
8 kilometers was passed in 22:00, and Kipsang, Gebreselasse and Zawude were all there, not giving anyone a centimeter. The crowd was enjoying it and the rain was staying away, even though the clouds a bit away showed that the rain was inevitable.
 
The pace continued to get faster as we saw that we had a time under 27:30 and a chance for the new World Lead. The announcer, in German, kept the fans abreast of the race, and the clocks at both ends of the field showed anyone interested that the race was still anyone of the threes.
 
Each lap brought the three runners closer to their goal, and as the race came to the final lap, Kipsang charged to the front. The African Champs silver medalist, Leil Gebreselasse battled by, and pushed the back straight, finally gaining some room on Kipsang, with Zawude holding close, but not in contention.
 
The fans loved it as Leil Gebreselasse won in a personal best of 27:19.71! In second, also in a personal best, was Emmanuel KIpsang, who ran 27:22.99. In third, was Ethiopian Tawude Zawude, the African champion, who ran 27:25.10.
 
The women's 10,000 meters was also billed as a strong race. Meseret Defar had to pull out just before the race, as Dr. Muller, a reknowned athletic specialist, noted that she had an issue with a shin and pulled her from the race.
 
The field came down to Ganet Yanew, Netsanet Gudeta and 2011 World Junior Champ Goytetom Gebrselase.
 
The first kilometer had the presense of the Hahner sisters, Lisa and Anna, who ran with the leaders for the early bit and retired from the race. They were recovering from recent marathons and their presence was to reach out to the fans.
 
Into the second kilomter, Yanew, Gudeta and Gebrselase seperated themselves and started running 3:03 to 3:07 per kilometer. By 3 kilometers, it was clear that the runners were going for a fast time, as they hit 9:18, and were off! 12:21 for 4 kilometers and 15:26 for the halfway point showed that this was a 31 minute pace or faster.
 
It also showed that the fans, cheering on the track as they did in the men's 10,000 meters, might see a second world leader of the night. That this was happening, in the first track meet held at Adi Dassler Stadium surely put a smile faces of adidas Sports Marketings' Mike McManus and Spencer Nel.
 
Ganet Yanew and Netsanet Gudeta were keeping the kilometers rolling at 3:03 to 3:05, and it took a toll, as Goytetom Gebrselase fell off the back. Goytetom had 100 meters down on Yanew and Gudeta by seven kilometers.
 
The pace was impressive: 15:26 for 5000 meters, 19:33 for 6 kilometers, 21:37 for seven kilometers, and eight kilometers hit in 24:43. Yanew would lead, then, Gudeta would lead. Knowing a bit more about Ganet Yanew's racing, I was siding with Yanew, but Netsanet Gudeta had some more moves up her proverbial sleeves.
 
The 10,000 meters is the longest race on the track in most major meetings. Twenty five laps at close to one's best even pace is the way to run a good 10,000 meters. Running with a couple of well matched rivals is another key to making a fine 10,000 meters, and this race had them all wrapped into one race.
 
As Gudeta and Yanew came closer and closer to the finish, the fans were excited and knew that a possible World Leader was at hand. The World Leader at the time was 31:04 and the two Ethiopian rivals were runnng right under 30:40 pace.
 
With one lap to go, after 24 laps, the distance between Yanew and Gudeta was centimeters. They started the bell lap together and Yanew and Gudeta tried to break each other but it was just not happening. As the two rivals came off the final turn, Netsanet Gudeta made a final push, and broke Ganet Yanew, with Gudeta taking the fine win in a PB of 30:56.27 and Ganet Yanew was second in 30:58.26, also a PB.
 
And for the second time that evening, the adidas BOOST Meeting had a world leader!
 
As the women's 10,000 meters finished, the rain came down. And the fans cleared out, thankful that the rain had held and that they were witnesses to the first of many elite track meets held at the Adi Dassler Stadium.
 
Earlier in the day, a pole vault competition was held at the adidas Outlet Store in Herzogenaurach. A crowd of perhaps three hundred enjoyed the women's pole vault, barbeque and enjoying the sun, as it was held in the late afternoon. The runway and standards fit well in the parking lot. Again, young families showed up, as it was pure entertainement for the children. Regine Kramer, who I watched vault for a while, cleared 4.30 meters for the win.
 
A fine first day for a new meet, by any standards. The facility makes sense and the fans showed up. Looking foward to seeing day two, just hours away!
Tuesday, 17 May 2016 04:35

Herzo Diaries: Observing Coach Braumann's team

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The group of athletes managed and trained by Coach Lance Braumann numbers around sixteen athletes. The group that arrived on Monday from Doha included Keston Bledman, Trinidad, Alonzo Edwards, Panama, Marvin Bracy, US, David Verburg, US, Tony McQuay, US, Nickel Ashmeade, Jamaica, Tori Blake, US, and joining the group a day later was Octavious Freeman. Verburg are training with the group right now, not as members.
 
A fine athlete himself, Lance Braumann has built a reputation building sprinters and jumpers. He has coached some of the finest sprinters and jumpers in the world over the past two decades. You might of heard of some past athletes: Veronica Campbell-Brown, Tyson Gay. 
 
You have heard of some of his newer athletes, Keston Bledman has run 9.86, Alonzo Edward has run sub 20 second 200 meters, David Verburg, Tony McQuay, 400 meters, Marvin Bracy, World Indoor medalist, 100 meters, Nickel Ashmeade, 100 and 200 meters. Tori Blake and Octavious Freeman are both 100m and 200m runners.
 
With the hard races on Friday night, Coach worked them out pretty easy on Tuesday, with the crew choosing a morning workout. Well, there were some very tired athletes that morning. This is where the tha art of coaching comes in. " It was not a big day, but it had its challenges." Athletes who were still tired, an athlete who wanted to come back later in the day. Somehow, Coach B juggled one athlete with a 500m and 300m workout, another doing 300 meter repeats in thirty-five seconds, several doing 120-150 meter sprints, it was all there.
 
Watching Lance Braunmann walk from one end of the track to the other, checking on warm ups, juggling time breaks within workouts, I remembered coaching young athletes a decade ago. Lance handles days of some complication, and athletes with the same level of complication.
 
Cajoling athletes to run, even fine athletes, reminds one that we are all human and that we all have brutal days.
 
After a long warm up, and each athlete seems to be working on their individual imperfections, the workout begins. Coach speaks little and the athletes get the work done.
 
While there are times of frivolity, teasing of a fellow athlete by the others, a bit, followed by laughter, the workout gets done, fast, and per Coach Braumann's instructions.
 
After I asked him about juggling various athletes, Coach Braumann, a bit of chew in his mouth, noted that I had not seen a complicated workout, that is, apparently, a whole different story.
 
I wanted to see Tori Bowie run. Her workout was three times a 120, and her first went poorly. Coach went over the speak to her, appearing to suggest that she would be fine, and they should just get the workout done. Bowie did. Her second 120 was much better, coming off the turn straight up, just like Coach asks. Her third 120 was just about where Coach wanted it: the staccato sound of Bowie's adidas spikes against the track surface was the main sound I heard as she shot around the curve and cleared the straighway.
 
Each day, Tori would tell me that she felt a bit better from her race. One is not surprised, but has to realize that running faster than 99.9 percent of the people in the world takes talent and hard work, takes a toll on ones body.
 
The workout on Wednesday was focused on starts, but, for Nickel Ashmeade, who has been sick all week, it was about checking his return to health. He did not feel good on Tuesday, but Wednesday looked great. Nickel is a huge athlete, World Champ medalist, and is one of the finest 200 meter runners in the world. Watching Nickel run is like watching an athlete who gets it: you can not win, as the Steve Forbert song notes, if you do not play.
 
A schedule of workout, rest, visit adidas facilities, doing some shipping, rest, eat, and race. That is what this week is about.
 
Most days, I say hello to the athletes, who are quite warm, but focused on their jobs. I do not speak to them or Coach during workouts, as that is disprectful to their craft.
 
In a time when much of the world forgets that people coming across a large sea on little more than a fishing boat are quite human, athletics brings me some solace. In a time when doping stories are on the news on a daily basis, watching athletes workout, and chase their limits is something that I need to see.
 
On Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14, Lance Braumann's athletes will run the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters. Distances where technique, speed, and form all play such an important part of their success and or failure. Coach Braumann's job is to pass on knowledge of training, technique, form and focus. Coaching is to Braumann what breathing is to normal human beings. He sees it as his mission to find athletes and help get the best out of them.
Braumann saw promise in Tori Bowie, who was a collegiate long jumper, with very little work ethic. Going from a relaxed college program to an organized and structured program run by Lance Braumann requires some time to adjust, on both athlete and coach.
 
Bowie likes to ask questions. Many questions. Many questions. She makes no bones about it. When I asked her about how Coach responds on the questions, she smiled. I asked Coach the same question, and he asked what Bowie said. Suffice it to say, Tori Bowie and her Coach, Lance Braumann have differences of opinion. Bowie is coming to the realization that Coach has a reason for all he does.
 
Last weekend she ran 10.80 in lovely warm conditions. As I finish this, early on Friday morning, May 13, it is raining hard in Herzogenaurach. I remember a conversation with Tori Bowie, where she asked me, several times, if she could run fast in the cold. I told her yes.
 
I thought to myself: Tori Bowie, you can run as fast as you want.
STANFORD, Calif./May 1, 2016 - In an important Olympic year, middle and long distance runners flocked to the the 21st Annual Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University's Cobb Track & Angell Field on May 1st in pursuit of Olympic and and Olympic Trials qualifying times. And, the superbly organized meet, which is recognized as one of the premier track events in the world for distance runners, didn't disappoint. A whopping 65 runners achieved Olympic entry standards (including 26 in the women's 10,000 meters alone) plus there were five world-leading times.
The Payton Jordan Invitational is a day and night of fast races, where many open their seasons. For the elite, it is a perfect place to get a qualifier for the Olympic or World Champs. For the college athlete, it is a good place to get a mark or a race in before the conferences start.
 
I am here for many reasons. For me, the Payton Jordan invitational is about seeing many of my athlete friends for the beginning of the season. But the big reason I go?
 
I have the funniest, most cerebral crowd of any meet in the world. Sitting down about the 100 meter start is the place to be. For nearly two decades, the ASICS Aggies have made this meet their opening of the season and a time to laugh, tell stories, snack and, did I say, tell stories?
 
The ASICS Aggies are a club that could only have been born in Northern California. Starting out at UC Davis, the club includes road racers, tracksters, and runners of all shape and sizes. It has always been about racing hard, training hard and having lots of fun.
 
The ASICS Aggies are a colorful club, yes, but they are also a club with great traditions and a ton of championships at regional, state and national championships, especially in cross country.
 
At the Payton Jordan, it is always about having fun, enjoying the competition and giving respect (which means standing up, applauding fine performances) to some of the races and competitors on the track.
 
Truth is, most of the Aggies have been where the athletes on the track are. Most of us stay through the first 10,000 meter sections for men and women, which means you are watching track from as early at 10 AM until, well, for example, right now, I am watching the last heat of the 10,000 meters for women.
 
Tonight, the most fun was the men's 10,000 meters as Bernard Lagat was making his debut. The bemedaled, well loved and respected 41 year old was hoping to see how he would fare over twenty-five laps of a 400 meter track.
 
Running 67-68 second laps, and hitting the 5000 meters in 14:03, Lagat was part of a front pack that included Sam Chelanga, and Sugaru Osaku. For Bernard, whose muscle memory goes back nearly thirty years, it was about breaking Sugaru Osaku over the last 800 meters, and using a fine 57.04 to win the race with a last lap that had all of the speed in the last 200 meters.
 
"2016 will be my last year at the elite level" a smiling Lagat told the media. I congratulated him, knowing full well that I picked Bernard with the Aggies picking winners 20 minutes into the race. Lead by a character indigenous to Aggie happenings known as "Tuna", the boisterous comments had us laughing to the point of crying, and the race was just an example of the to and fro that this crowd provides at a meet.
 
The meet is named in honor of the late Payton Jordan, long time coach for Stanford Track & Field, after he competed here. Payton Jordan was dear to me, as he wrote us letters of congratulations when we started American Atheltics in 1989 and again, in 1998, when we relaunched Cal Track & Running News.
 
It is also a meet, each year, where my brother, Brian shows up, and we get to relax and watch a track meet together. We cover about thirty meets and road races live each year, and this one is different.
 
Sara Lahti, of Global Sport, (Sweden) has her own crowd, as well as a top runner from Mexico being cheered in Spanish. It is all part of this night of athletics. The cool clear night makes Stanford, for this night each year, a place where runners from dozens of countrys attend, to chase fast times. For Sarah Lahti, in the section 2, she runs a fine 31:54.87, as she charged around the track for the last 3200 meters, all by her lonesome! Sarah ran 71.4 on her last lap, setting a new Swedish record! Sara Slattery was third in 32:13.03.
 
One can read all of the results tomorrow, on the website. Right now, I am enjoying the sounds of Swedish behind me, watching Sara Slattery leading the final race of the night, the 10,000 meters, as the exhausted announcers provide lap by lap announcements after fourteen hours of track and field!
Oh, what a wonderful night.
 
Off to Doha tomorrow, your athletic pilgrim starts his journeys for 2016, as always, searching for the perfect athletics meet, athletics crowd and athletics eatery.