Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 38 Comments on June, 1961 and Running at Altitude

(The following post came from Jerry McFadden, University of Missouri, who ran in the 880 at the Big 8 Meet in Boulder, discusses the effects of altitude and what little we knew of what to expect in those days.) / / / / George, I tried to write you a comment on the blog about the June, 1961 post but it apparently did not go through. The gist of it: That was my first Big 8 Outdoor meet. I was a sophomore. Freshmen could not compete during that period. I had taken 2nd in the 1,000 yards at the Big 8 Indoor that year and had ran 1:50.1-1:50.3 several times that spring, so we thought I would have a chance of placing in the 880. But no one had given serious thought about the effects of altitude at that time on the middle-distance & distance runners. Most of us "flatlanders" crapped out or barely made it through our events. Boulder did us in. The 1st quarter in the 880 was 54, with a pack of us tight together. We hit the 660 in 1:21. Then I ran a less than brilliant 29 last 220, which felt like an hour. And I wasn't even last (but close to it)! Our star 2 miler, Bob Heinekin, wanted to run a school record. He went out fast through a mile & 1/2, then collapsed. We had to put him on an oxygen tank. The tough guys managed to bull through but, as your post said, there was no outstanding distance performances. OU won basically on their field & short events. Good for them! Most surprising to our Mizzou crowd was that our legendary coach, Tom Botts, did not have a handle on the affects of altitude & gave us no insight on how to work with it. A gap in his legendary experience, maybe? To this day I feel it was wrong to hold such an important meet at that altitude when the likes of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa Sate, Kansas State, etc had no chance at acclimation. I want to take nothing away from OU but the meet was biased for those with strong sprint & field teams. I respect those teams that had that balance but the result might have been different at another location. Jerry McFadden / / / / Jerry, / I was still in high school in 61, didn't get to go to Boulder ever. And glad about it. I don't think any coach had a handle on what to do about altitude in those days. There were probably only a few physiologists with any experience in the field and they weren't applying that knowledge to athletic performance then. Jack Daniels, coaching at Oklahoma City University in those days, might have been one of the few, but he was researching cardiac rehabilitation at that time. Any of the lads from the lowlands would have had to spend a month there to get acclimated. I remember the OU guys who had been in Boulder talking about how difficult it was. Anyway I think OU won the Big 8 again the following year with much the same team but at Lawrence where the playing field was more level. Actually they lost Mike Lindsay who won both throws in Boulder, but another guy Walter Myers won the discus, and they had a couple of shot putters who placed. Tony Watson got them a lot of points in the sprints and long jump. I don't think they (OU) won a conference meet again until the current coach, Martin Smith came in from Oregon. One thing that can be said for Kansas over the years is they scored in a lot of different events from distances where they dominated, but also in the sprints and jumps and throws. They were generally so well balanced. / / George Brose

Now we hear from two of our regular readers Mike Solomon and Ernie Cunliffe. Ernie's remarks on 800 meters being the dividing line on the effect of altitude on performance are pretty much on the money. It's a fairly anaerobic event. Aerobics plays a role in the 800, but the guy who performs well anaerobically is going to have a slight advantage in the 800 at altitude. Also Ernie's history of being a hard charger (OUT FAST) in the 800 and yet able to run internationally competitive times says to me that his physiology enabled him to handle a lot more lactate than other good runners. Ernie's time at Boulder didn't tail off that much from sealevel running. But I also know that he is a guy who can function at altitude , better than the average individual. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro without much trouble (19,340 feet) and even camped overnight in the crater at over 18,500 feet. This is a hell of an ordeal for the normal human. Therefore Ernie is not normal. ( Aristotlean logic) (I mean that as a compliment, Ernie.) He admittedly had lots of good preparation having scaled approximately 55- 14,000 foot peaks in the US prior to going to Kilimanjaro.
Ernie on Mt. Stanford (red shirt , front and center) But I can also speak from experience as a journeyman middle distance runner (4:09.8 and 1:51.7) and a climber of Kilimanjaro that despite all my training both in running and in climbing above 12,000, that I never had a good day above 12,000. Yet other, untrained individuals could stroll right up to the summit with little or no seriously debilitating effects. Anyway, here are Mike's and Ernie's comments. I post them in the order they were received. Again I apologize for the spacing problems currently being ecountered on this blog server. FROM MIKE SOLOMON George, Interesting article on how the big 8 handled or didn't handle the high altitude of Boulder in the early 60's I was invited out of high school in 67' to compete against the Mexican olympic team in Mexico City...elevation 7400'. We were there three weeks prior to the actual race and it only got worse each day. Former KU coach, Easton, was the Mexican national coach and he told me that they had a surprise for the world in having native Mexicans ( indians) from some high altitude villages compete in the olympics. In the end they really didn't surprise anybody.
COACH EASTON Easton was fired right after I met him because the Mexican national coaches didn't want a gringo to dictate to them. What about the 67' ncaa cross country disaster in Laramie, Wyoming? Now that was a real mistake!!! Also over 7,000'. Mike (Solomon) THIS FROM ERNIE CUNLIFFE George has posted comments from a Missouri runner regarding the altitude at Boulder for the 1961 Big 8 Meet. I don't agree as up to an 880/800 there is no handicap for altitude other than you are wiped out after the race. As proof, Ralph Doubell from Australia won the 68 Olympics and tied theWR with a 1:44.3 Now of course Doubell may have trained at altitude which the US bronze medal winner Tom Farrell certainly did in prep forMexico City. I would add that my best in 1959 was 1:49.2 and with no altitude training I placed 3rd in the 1959 AAU meet at Boulder with a 1:50 flat. Now this was 800 meters so adjusting the time would be 1:50.7 or.8 but Murphy won in 1:47.9 so I would conclude that I just had a slightly off dayas I had also run 1:50 flat for 880 yds in the NCAA meet the week before at Nebraska which of course is not at altitiude. I think now it is generally accepted that up to 2 minutes time at altitude would be about where the times are effected which of course would takein the Womens' 800 and certainly the Mens'
Jerry McFadden wrote a comment to the original story about the Big 8 meet being run at altitude and the problems he and teammates encountered. That first comment was not picked up by the editor, and thus Jerry rewrote the comment a second time and emailed it to me from memory. The rewrite appeared earlier on our blog. Just now I found his original comment and it clarifies slightly some things we saw in the earlier published email. You will see that Jerry said that the lead pack in the 880 went through the quarter in 54 and hit the 660 in 1:21. In the earlier report it seemed that Jerry also went through in 1:21 and finished with a 29 last 220. I found a result showing that Jerry ran a 1:53.5 that day for 6th place. If he ran a 29 last 220 he would not have been at 1:21 or he would have finished with a 32.5. The account below, which was Jerry's first draft doesn't imply that he was in the lead pack and gives veracity to his 29 last 220. He probably hit the 660 in 1:24.5. I have a picture of the first lap of that race and the finish sent by Neville Soll who was 5th for Oklahoma that day with the finish times below. The links to that picture and the finish picture are listed below. Kirk Hagan of KU won the race over Billy Stone of Oklahoma St. THIS IS A PHOTO OF THE 880 RUNNERS at BOULDER COMING THROUGH THE 440
L-R and eventual finish and time Billy Stone OSU (2nd 1:50.4 ) Kirk Hagan KU (1st 1:49.2), Bill Thornton KU (4th 1:51.9 ) Jerry McFadden Mizzou (6th 1:53.5) Neville Soll OU (5th 1:53.2) Grosek KSU (3rd 1:51.7) Tim Leonard (7th 1:53.7) THIS IS JERRY'S ORIGINAL COMMENT WHICH I MISSED POSTING EARLIER I survived the June 1961 Big 8 meet in Boulder. At the time, no one gave a serious thought about the effects of high altitude on the "distance" runners. Most of us flatlanders nearly croaked. It was my first Big 8 outdoor championships and I was running well all season with a 1:50.1 880 just two weeks before. The front pack went the the quarter in 54 & the 660 in 1:21 then went into staggering single file to the finish line. I limped home in 29 over the last 220, which felt like an hour. There were stories of woe like that over all the track that day. Bob Heineken, our star 2 miler went out fast in hopes of setting a school record, only to collapse with half mile to go, ending up on an oxygen bottle. The tough guys made it to the end, but without any performances to write home about. Ah yes, altitude might be something to think about... Jerry McFadden

Paul Ebert, a former OU miler sent this to us. Hi George, Paul Ebert here, At the Big Eight 1961 mile I finished 2nd to Bill Dotson in 4:15.9 and there was a scramble, as I outkicked three others for second place. After the race I was doubled over couldn't seem to catch my breath (oxygen debt) Incidently Bill Dotson was Kansas Univ. first sub 4:oo miler, It was 3:59 in 1962 His fastest (he finished 5th in race). enjoy your track info. Paul Ebert 1958-1962 univ. okla.
Ebert at NCAA Mile Eugene Oregon 1962 Ebert, Bill Dotson Kansas, Mike Fleming Nebraska, Barrie Almond Houston, Dyrol Burleson Oregon, Bill Cornell Southern Illinois, Smith BYU

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