After I hobbled home from this summer's masters nationals in Spokane, WA with my silver and bronze medals, I went to see the doctor about my jump ankle tendonitis. Once he heard my description of how much pain I was in each time I walked on it (not to mention, jumped, hurdled and ran on it) and the strategies I was employing to cope with it over the course of much of 2018, the doc booted me up for a month. Very unfortunately, this was 10 days before I planned to go to the world championships in Spain. This would not be my year.
When people look down and comment on the boot, I tell them, "It's a good problem." And it is. The fact that at age 58, I have an injury due to flying 5 feet high in the air, backwards, mind you, is a good problem. The fact I didn't get off it earlier, and listen to my body, not so much. Microtears to the peroneal tendon are a complicated injury to heal. I'm doing my best by following directions.
Meanwhile, as my normal track workouts and other gravity-requiring training is on hold, I'm trying to stay fit. Core work and LOTS of swimming is the recipe for the next month or so.
I'm impatient, I hate being off this ankle. Luckily, this hiatus is not dampening my excitement about competing, so I'm chomping at the bit to get back on the track. Whoa, lady, hold up. Focused on the 2019 indoor season, I'm telling myself ... patience, patience, and just keep swimming.
I had a blast at the USATF 2018 Masters National Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Washington. Not only was it an opportunity to catch up with track friends, but I did my second only, and first outdoor, pentathlon. In addition, I was able to squeak in a silver medal in the W55 high jump. With a less than perfect jump ankle, I was happy to medal. But, the big kick for me, was winning bronze in my first ever hurdle race. Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool! In my heat, the great masters track athlete, Joy Upshaw, broke the American record. I was five second behind her -- a world of difference. All in all, I'm glad I went and happy to have performed well. Now to rest and rehab my ankle injury and find new ways to keep up my fitness up that don't pound on the peroneal tendon!
"Because I like doing things that people won't try, or are afraid to do." -- Me
I heard myself say this at dinner with some friends the other night, when they asked, why are you pushing through this injury you have and continuing to train? Maybe it's in my blood? I'm not sure where this pioneer mentality comes from, but it might be the ancestors that walked behind the wagon as they settled new territory in the New World, or the Irish blood of those who came in the 1880's looking for a new beginning. Either way, I'm really not that special. Many a masters track and field athlete has pushed through pain and injury and come out the other side healed and competitive. I'm not quite there yet, but as long as I can train with a smile on my face, I'll keep going!
Someone quoted a great description of my life at the moment. I have two teen boys who have schoolwork, interests, hobbies, after school activities and the daily grind of school to support. Each day, I end up spending the hours from 3 - 10 p.m. in the car, or supervising some type of work. Though I'm 58, I'm living the life of someone 10 to 15 years younger. I'm still getting down on the floor, wrestling with boys, or listening intently to a school social concern, rotating through tons of laundry, still never leaving the house without snacks, water and a clipboard and pencil to throw in the back seat as I support the guys going from activity to activity.
I wouldn't have it any other way. I feel blessed to still be in this "rush hour." I waited till I was in my forties to have kids, so we're in the thick of it now. I'll miss it when it ends. I hear the nostalgia in so many of my friends who had kids at "the normal time," and I know these moments are fleeting.
The season I'm living in, as someone described it, is "rush hour" for a parent. I'd agree! And that makes it hard to find time to train as a masters athlete, especially when you choose an event like the pentathlon that has five to train for.
We masters are so excited about our second chance at competition, if we find a moment to train, sometimes we push through injury in order to squeak in more practice time. I know I do. Earlier in the summer, I kept hurdling during a practice far beyond what was sensible. I had hurt my quads and stupidly thought the pain was normal. Nope. One was strained and one had a tear. Thus, I've spent a far bit of the summer licking my wounds and skipping meets. A trip out of the country, down time with family and telling myself this won't last forever have replaced rigorous practices.
I have one more chance to compete this year and it's a big one. The USATF Masters National Championships in Spokane. I continue to heal, but am not quite competition-ready yet. Wish me luck.
"Much of your success in life is determined by how well you handle discomfort..."
I'm not sure who came up with the above quote, but it's been my motivational mantra over the past few months. As usually, I spend the fall training and resting up for the indoor track season which usually kicks off with the USATF Masters Indoors National Championships, which in 2018 were held in Landover, Maryland.
But, last November, within minutes of getting the schedule for the indoor nationals three-day meet, I got an email from church announcing that my 13-year old's confirmation service was the same weekend. Was I going to have to choose between defending my W55 high jump national championship title, and attending my youngest's confirmation service? You betcha. I was fairly certain the high jump would be scheduled at a time during the weekend that would conflict with me attending my youngest's confirmation. But, as mentioned before in this blog, I am a mom first, athlete second. There was no choice to make, really.
So, as a three-time national champion in the W55 high jump, I decided it was time to present myself with a new challenge, a new ledge to jump off, a new "just out of my comfort zone," situation. I saw on the schedule for nationals that the pentathlon (60m hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800m run) was on Friday. I could make that, I thought. The only problem was, I'm not a pentathlete.
I set about training for the pentathlon two months before nationals. Much to my surprise, I was able to finish (even sucking wind in that 800m) and placed third in points, while being awarded silver because the second place finisher was from out of the country.
The "pent" was a blast -- a day surrounded by inspiring female masters athletes who supported this newcomer to the event. I'm now officially hooked!
Looking forward to the next one!
And, the 2017 season is complete. Happy to have completed my third year as USATF W55 High Jump Champion; ranked #1 in North and South America, and hovering around #11 in the world. Bring on 2018!
As mentioned below, it was an exciting night for me competing at NYC's indoor track and field venue, The Armory. Here are more shots thanks to wonderful masters track & field photographer, Rob Jerome.
One cold night forty years ago, when I was 17, I boarded a bus with other Upstate NY track athletes bound for a meet in NYC. I didn’t know much about where we were going, but I could see everyone was excited to compete at the venue we were headed to called “The Armory” on 168th St., in New York City.
The place was a busy scene compared to my high school meets. Kids and spectators crowded the indoor track area and I recall it smelled of sweat, old athletic wear and grease. There were athletes from all over and a sprinkling of college recruiters. But, what struck me most was we high jumped on a polished wood floor. Yes, a wood floor.
I didn't wear spikes to jump in 1977, not many of us did back then. So, the fact it was a wood floor didn't change how I jumped at the time. I was just glad we weren't jumping into tires or mattresses -- we did that a lot in those days. It was an exciting night and felt like the "big leagues" for a girl from more rural upstate.
As readers know, I stopped track and field when I graduated from high school in 1978. Since my 2014 return to this sport I love, I’ve always wanted to go back to The Armory. Long before I arrived that night in my 1970's track shorts, the Armory had a storied history filled with famous track faces and face-offs. Not only has the place had myriad iterations since I was there, (for a while it was even used as a homeless shelter) it’s now been beautifully renovated and is considered one of the USA’s premier indoor track venues.
Last month, I went back! I competed at the December 2017 NYRR Indoor Sprint Night at The Armory. On a family visit to NYC, I dragged my husband and two sons up to 168th street using the 20-minute ride from midtown to regal them with stories about the last time I was there. As they took their seats in the balcony, I took in the atmosphere. Talented runners and jumpers from various states and countries were there. It was being broadcast live, complete with a guy in a booth above the stadium running commentary. I high jumped and long jumped. Yes, I was rusty as I haven’t hit a mat since August, but, I was there. I jumped. I competed. I went baaaack.
The crowds were thinner than the last time, but, for me, it was just as exciting as it was in 1977. There weren’t any college recruiters this time, but in the corners of the building, at the edge of the modern renovated mondo track, I could see peaking out, a little bit of wood floor. 😊
For more about the history of The Armory, see this link:
Someone told me (@kav0267) the only way to do hurdles at my age is to be fearless. "If you try it and you are afraid, forget the idea,” he said. Third day at it, first time actually over a hurdle, and I focused on being fearless. Working at it. #fearlessover50 #thinkingpentathlon #newevent #hurdler @usatfmasterstrack
Julia Curran-Villarreal is a three-time USA W55 national masters high jump champion. After a 35-year break from her favorite high school sport of track & field, Julia returned to competition in 2013 at the age of 53. Follow her journey on @juliajumping on Instagram and @juliacurran on Twitter.