As the summer of 2013 came to a close, (and I was busting with excitement that I'd found track & field again) the Georgia Senior Games popped up on one of the many sites I was using to search for, and learn about, masters track & field. I learned that the National Senior Games is a large nationally run organization with a variety of sports competitions for the over-50 crowd. The Georgia track & field event was taking place in September of 2013, in Warner Robbins, Georgia. This city is a three-hour drive from my home. Easy, right? So, my husband and I dropped the kids at school that day, and drove south to the venue. We arrived early, way before any other competitors got there. (More about how I always like to be early wherever I go, in another post.)
It's not easy to find a place to practice for the high jump. Much of the time, competitors only jump AT meets. So I was excited to see the high jump pit and pole were up already though competition was four hours off. "Hey, why don't I do my practice jumps now," I told my husband practically flying out of the car.
Let's understand, we had driven three hours with maybe one quick coffee break. Somehow I had missed the memo at this early stage in my Masters T&F research about WARMING UP when you are old. Correction: Warming up when you are a "master." I leapt out of the car and with a few cursory stretches ran at the bar and jumped over. Feeling good! I returned to my starting point and raced for another jump. PING. Ouch. "I just did something to my left leg," I complained. Soon, it became clear I was having trouble walking on it. Jumping on it was the least of my worries.
We went straight to a pharmacy and bought what we thought might help -- ice packs, tape and Alleve. We sat for two hours in a coffee shop with ice on my left hamstring. Believe it or not, I jumped on that baby when 3 p.m. came and won my age bracket. But, it hurt like heck. About two weeks later, I started seeing funny purple and dark streaks down the back of my thigh. At that point, I went to the doctor and learned I had had a Level 2 hamstring tear. Oh!
Any thoughts of high jumping further in 2013 were squashed. I was told I needed to heal. So, I did. And, I set my sights on the 2014 season. The fact I didn't get discouraged at that point and quit shows either incredible optimism, love for the sport or vast amounts of naivity. I'll take them all.
In May 2014 I was back in the game. In my first meet, a developmental meet at Emory University, my hamstring was fine, but something else pinged --somewhere on a leg, or hip, or ankle, I can't remember where now. I went straight to the doctor this time. When I got home, my husband looked at me and said, "You either need to get serious and start some strength training to avoid injury, or I AM serious, you need to stop."
With a typical mom's history of putting everyone else first, where was I going find the time to "train" for the high jump? How could I commit time to something purely for myself? I had to dig deep and ask myself, could I give this new project up?
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.