This past weekend, on a bit of a whim, I decided to jet up to Toronto, Canada, for the North, Central and Caribbean World Masters Athletics Championships (NCCWMA), hosted by Canadian Masters Athletics Association. Well, I jetted on as much of a whim as a mom of two young boys and a husband who travels can. After we got the moving parts squared away (can you say, first week of school?) I packed my bags and headed North.
I was happy to have squeezed this meet into my schedule. The facilities at York University in Toronto were wonderful and (except for a Canadian official talking and coaching competitors during our women's high jump event - angry face) it was a wonderful meet. There was a magnified level of camaraderie between athletes at this end of season meet. Masters athletes are so excited to be out in the fresh air, feeling healthy and doing things they love. Some of us, many of us, are doing something we NEVER thought we'd do. I really enjoyed hanging with the other inspiring competitors and seeing friends, old, and new.
I tied for gold in the W55 high jump with a great Canadian athlete and was pleased to only miss out on a bronze medal in my new event, long jump, by 1 cm! Next time!
For this international meet, USATF provided the masters TEAM USA with a full 2016 Rio Olympics uniform. Pants, tops, jerseys, etc. We were all "kitted out" and it felt great to represent our country in true Olympic gear. (Never thought that'd happen either!) See us all giddy in our uniforms below.
Here ends my 2017 outdoor season. I've accomplished what I set out to do this year. Continue undefeated in the U.S.A. (for third year), maintain my #1 ranking in the U.S.A. (for the third year) and compete (and win) in four major meets, traveling to the USA Games in San Diego, CA; the National Senior Games, in Birmingham, Alabama; the USATF Masters Nationals in Baton Rouge, LA and the NCCWMA's in Toronto. These, plus other regional meets this year, have provided me with great opportunities to jump, learn and set some new goals for next year.
But, there's another winning component in these results. As my (very supportive) husband pointed out today, I am injury free after such a robust season! There's no hamstring tear, no foot injury and no worrisome ankle tweak. I can attribute some of that to healthy eating (a plant-based diet), a commitment to training on my part and an incredibly supportive family. But, a lot of the credit goes to my strength coach, Nyles Stuart.
As readers know, my track coach Ian Dube died of pancreatic cancer in October 2016. That really threw me. It was hard to find the joy in training again. After a few months of searching, I circled back to a suggestion Ian made long ago, Nyles Stuart. When I starting with Nyles in January of this year, he got me on a program that focused more on weight training and less on working my body and muscles to the point of exhaustion -- I was nervous to not have Ian at my side before this and I think I was over training. Under Nyles tutelage, I've gotten strong and solid, allowing me to take on all these meets without injury. (Plus, I swear, I feel like I could lift a bus now.) The fun and excitement is back and there are great possibilities. Thanks, Nyles.
I'll keep posting about my journey, training and masters athletics. Thanks for following the journey and let's get ready for 2018!
I did it! I won my third national outdoor title for W55 high jump! This means I've won both indoor and outdoor national championships for three years running.
The recent 2017 USATF National Masters Championships was held in Baton Rouge and it was hot! Many middle and long distance athletes were smartly preparing months in advance for the hot weather. I figured that living in Atlanta I'd be fine, but in fact, the competition was very difficult and I had to overcome the dreadful heat and humidity -- and my event was at eight o'clock in the morning!
My competition time slot included all women high jumpers ages 30 - 59. On this day, I watched many jump below their usual best because of the conditions, including me. The showers over four days of competition had made the surface moist and slippery. At 1.29m I slipped on the pavement and slammed hard into the bar. I looked over at my husband, who was watching from afar (no one but competitors are allowed inside the oval) and could see him give me a concerned raised eyebrow look. Heck, my eyebrows were raised, too! I usually don't miss till higher heights.
High jumpers get three attempts at each height. In case of a tie, medal placing is based on the number of attempts you make to clear a height, so you want to get the job done in as few jumps as possible.
It can be mentally, as well as physically, fatiguing to take more than one jump to clear the bar. Like a tennis player down four sets, when you miss, you have to return to your base line, eyeball the bar again, and force yourself to focus on what is possible, not the fact you just missed. Mentally, you must keep this laser-focus of positivity for at least 90 minutes.
On this day, I watched jumpers struggle at 1.29m, and like me, walk away shaking their heads. In the end, I made 1.29m and then the next height of 1.34m (we were jumping in 5cm increments). Then, I watched as others, some younger than me by 20 years, failed in their attempts at 1.34m. At the end, all were out except a W40 and a W50, making me the gold medalist for W55. I was thrilled, because not only had I won my age group, but because on this day, I had out jumped younger athletes as well.
As many of you know, I spend a lot of time giggling about my success in high jumping, but it does beg a few questions. How can a 57-year old, who took a 35-year break from the sport, be flipping backwards in the air at this age? What's the secret? I may never figure this one out, but, four years in, I believe it's a lucky combination of genetics, family support, and training, lots of training. We masters athletes win medals as a result of months of training, the sacrifices we make, and our families make, and yes, plain old genetics. And, I don't think I've met a masters athlete who doesn't have a good sense of humor. Along with the above, I think it's a little bit of crazy, too!
Next up is representing my country as a member of the Team USA masters athletes competing at the North, Central and Caribbean World Masters Athletics Championships (NCCWMA's) in Toronto, August 10-12. A number of W55 high jumping Canadians will be nipping at my heels. Focusing on the positive, I am thinking that may push me to jump a little higher to end my season. Wish me luck!
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.