Jess H. Brewer's Track & Field Page

(Click on photo for full-sized JPG.)

Here I am in one of my finest moments: beating the great Willy Betts (he's the one on the right) in the 180 yard Low Hurdles at the 1963 Central Michigan University Relays to set a new Cranbrook School record of 19.5 s, which stands to this day (and will forever, since no one runs the 180 yard Low Hurdles anymore).

Masters T&F: It's hard to beat the thrill of Track & Field competition, which is why I still do it today (I hope - see below). Since 1993 I have given up long distance running and returned to my event, the 400 m Intermediate Hurdles (400mH for short).

1960-1963: awakening. With the help of great Cranbrook School coaches like W.R. Usellis ("the WRU") and the legendary Ben M. Snyder, I grew from a gawky Rebel kid into a proud hurdler and discovered the meaning of Sportsmanship. (Sadly lacking in today's world.)

1964-1967: had a wonderful time at Trinity College (in Hartford, CT) under the tutelage of (among others) Karl Kurth, who got me an NCAA Scholar-Athlete fellowship to graduate school at Berkeley. (The money went to a more sordid use, but that's another story. The medal is still one of my most prized possessions.) In my last 3 years of College I was beaten only twice in the 440yH: once by an Amherst hurdler whom I later vanquished, and once by Dave Hemery, then a Boston College star but in 1968 the Olympic Champion and World Record holder in that event. So I didn't feel too bad losing to him. My best time was 53.1.

1968-1969: the peak of my youthful T&F career. In the 1968 Pacific AAU Championships I ran my best 400mH ever (52.7) unless you count age-graded conversions (see below). I was edged out for second place by the Canadian champion. Then in 1969 I developed Achilles tendonitis at the same time as I reached my highest peak. In a meet in San Jose I ran the high hurdles "right" for the one and only time in my life; all the hundreds of other HH races were flawed in one way or another, but that one race will be etched in my memory for as long as I live. I can't begin to describe the feeling of "doing it right" at that level; you'll just have to experience it for yourself. I didn't win, there were real HH champions in that race, but who cares? Later that day I got to run the 400mH against "43 Lee" Evans, who ran up to the first hurdle, stopped, hopped over it, took off again and did the same thing over the other 9 hurdles, to run sub-51. Awesome. Anyway, the Achilles then got so bad it squeaked audibly when I moved my foot; my doctor advised me that if I continued to run on it I might be crippled permanently. So I gave up that season, and my "peak" was irretrievably lost.

1970-1974: I made a modest comeback in 1970-71 but it was clear that the edge was gone; after that I acted on occasional impulses to run the 400mH again, but wasn't fit enough to turn in respectable times, and in 1973 I moved to Vancouver to start a postdoctoral job at TRIUMF, so I was short on time and energy, so I quit serious sprinting.

1975-1992: accepting the popular wisdom that, "Old men shouldn't try to run fast," I became an unenthusiastic distance runner. I had always run Cross Country in school, so the pain of knees and muscles was familiar, but I never really got very good. My skeleton just isn't constructed right for distance running. In September 1992 I had what I now recognize as a pulmonary embolism; it turned into pneumonia and I lost 10 pounds, which ironically helped me improve my times, once I had recovered. (That, and the scare of perceiving my mortality.) My marathon-running buddies urged me to train for the Vancouver Marathon; I replied, "I'm not a distance runner. I'm a hurdler." To which they replies (in chorus), "Then why aren't you running the hurdles?" So we made a bargain: in the following year, I would either run the 400mH in an actual competition, or start training for the Marathon. The stage was set.

1993-4: what followed would have been impossible without the generous help of Bill Morrish and his "Rogue Squadron" of sprinters and middle distance runners on the UBC track team. Starting from scratch as I did, every race was a little faster, just like when I was 16! It was wonderful when I braved my first 400mH race in nearly 20 years in a Masters heat at the Trevor Craven meet in Coquitlam, BC. There I met Grant Lamothe, who remains a good friend to this day, and Rich Reinhart, a fine hurdler and a wonderful sportsman, who later rode a heart attack out of this life at 41, doing what he loved best. A good way to go, but far too early for such a nice guy! That day in Coquitlam we all sat around talking about HS T&F in Michigan and I discovered the cameraderie of Masters T&F. I was hooked. Later that summer I went to the USATF Masters Championships in Provo, UT, where I placed 6th but was hooked even deeper.

1995: in July I ran the 400mH in the WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes) World T&F Championships in Buffalo, NY. I placed 6th for M45 with a 62.45 (62.40 in the prelims, but I had a bad cold and lost steam in the last 100m of the finals). Besides (whine, snivel) the other guys were all 47 or under....

1996: just like Michael Johnson, double gold at the 1996 Canadian Masters T&F Championships in Victoria, BC! In my case, both hurdles: 15.98 in M50 100mH and 62.90 in M50 400mH. Two weeks later (Aug 22-23) at the North American/Central American/Caribbean WAVA Championships in Eugene, OR, I took silver in the M50 100mH with 15.84 and gold in the M50 400mH with a PB of 60.72! OK, so maybe MJ has a bit more to be proud of; but I'm not getting a $500K appearance fee! (My 60.72 was good for B.C. Athletics' Male Master T&F Athlete of the Year - it was a real thrill to get my name engraved on the trophy that truly belongs forever to the great Harold Morioka!)

1997: a bad year spent recovering very slowly from an aggravated left Achilles (and/or the bursa between it and the calcaneous - the doctors never were able to make a firm diagnosis) acquired when my foot slipped running up wet steps in October 1996. One useful observation: recovering from an injury is a process with a second-order phase transition - if running hard enough and frequently enough to maintain conditioning causes the injury to be aggravated more during workouts than it can recover between workouts, either the injury gets steadily worse or you get out of shape; but when it can recover enough between workouts to do it again, you start getting steadily better. The difference is mathematically smooth but psychologically discontinuous! I made that transition around the end of 1997 after over a year of frustration and "pool running" (ugh!).

1998: things are looking up again, thanks to the privilege of running with New York's Central Park Track Club during my sabbatical leave at Columbia Univ. (1997-98) Not only did I get whipped into shape chasing such greats as Sid Howard, but I got to run relays with them. I love relays. The high point was winning the M50+ 4x100 (and breaking the old American record in the M50+ 4x400, although it was only good for 3rd place) at the Penn Relays in April (23-25). Actually I didn't win; William Overby, Ron Johnson and Ken Brinker did - I just ran a leadoff leg that was not too slow for them to make up, at least in the 4x100.

1999: a very bad year. With grand plans for the World Championships in Gateshead, England (I had already paid my entry fees, booked accomodations and bought my airline tickets), I developed a DVT (deep venous thrombosis - big bloot clot in the main vein of my right calf) and had to go on blood thinners from February to May. This slowed me down enough that I was unable to run over the hurdles at speed without popping my hamstring repeatedly, so I bowed out. I ran a few flat 400's toward the end of the season but never got under 60.1, a big letdown from the year before, when I ran in the low 57's indoors.

2000: worse. In winter and early spring I kept getting fast, trying the hurdles and popping the hamstring again; finally I resolved to stick with the flat races and only bring in the hurdles very slowly and gently. Early season 400's were pathetic - I never broke 62 - and what felt like a nice fast 200 was 27.1; but two days later I got what probably explains the lousy performances: a pulmonary embolism (PE) that wiped out my season but thankfully not my life. So now I am eating rat poison (warfarin in the form of Coumadin) for the rest of my life and trying to figure out why my blood has this compulsion to clot for no reason. Whether a return to competition is possible remains to be seen, but it seems certain that my hurdling career is over. Dang.

Well, that was a little pessimistic. I managed to rally enough to run a 200 fast enough to pick up a bronze in the 2000 North American/Central American/Caribbean WAVA Championships in Kamloops, BC, which restored my confidence a little.

2001: still not dead yet. I have paid my fees for the 2001 WAVA World Championships in Brisbane, Australia in July; now if I can get fit, avoid pulling that hamstring again, and find the money for air fare . . . anyone want to sponsor me?

Well, between the ill-advised long flights and the cost, I chickened out of Brisbane. But I did manage to get in a few licks this season anyway: a best 400m time of 58.6, 200m 26.3 and 400mH 65.3, good enough to win BC M55 only because Harold Morioka tripped over the last hurdle; fortunately he wasn't hurt. That time would have put me neck-and-neck with Klaus-Eggert Bahr for the bronze in Brisbane, all other things being equal, and only 1.8 s behind the champ, Seppo Juhani Putkinen. Of course, all things are rarely equal. Not a bad comeback year, I suppose. My stride seems to be shortening, though; I'll have to learn to alternate (L/R) legs in the 100mH.

2002: a slow year. Best 400mH time was 73.70 (ouch!) and best 400m was 62.00 on Leg 2 of 4x400m relay in 4:04 (BC M55 record). Sorry, guys! You would've done better without me.

2003: things can always get worse. In February I had a prostate biopsy (due to increasing PSA) that revealed cancer. For those who know what it means, it was "Gleason 7". Not good. So I opted for aggressive treatment (and also lots of "alternative" stuff - ask me about it if you want to know the details) and endured a summer of chemo and androgen ablation (read, "no testosterone" - a chance to get in touch with my feminine side and discover why feminists refel to "testosterone poisoning" - again, ask me about it if you want to know more). Moved from Vancouver to Richmond in April. Trying to stay competitive in the sprints earned my knee a torn meniscus. Chemo sucks, but it beats the alternative. I joined a study to see if a thrice-weekly weight workout at the gym helps prevent loss of muscle mass and bone density on hormone therapy (apparently Yes) so didn't entirely lose fitness. Had the prostate out on 9 Oct 2003 (that was the worst part!) and regained control of my bladder within a few months.

2004: no running with the bum knee until I got it fixed (orthoscopically - it was neat to watch the video!) at the end of July and got back on the track. Expanded to over 190 lb during gym-only period. Joined Kajaks and started the long climb back up to competition.

2005: I wonder if chemo has done permanent damage. It didn't seem to bother Lance Armstrong that much, but cycling is not sprinting. Never got under 28.72 in the 200m or 63.90 in the 400m; ran 72.80 in 400mH for a silver medal (M55) in the World Masters Games at Edmonton in July, but I had run 72.38 in June in the Pacific Invitational at Langley. Still, better than nothing.

2006: In April 2006 at the SFU Open I ran 18.12 in the 100mH, breaking the previous Canadian M60 record of 18.8; but thanks to uncooperative meet directors it was never registered, and in June at the BC Masters Championships I was demolished by Warren Hamill, who ran 17.24 for a new record. :-(

2007: A slow year, but still competing.

2008: Ditto.

2009: A little better. Won 100mH (in 19.36) and 300mH (in 51.62) at Canadian Masters Championships in Kamloops.

2010: Another slow year, but still competing.

2011: My second World Championships, this time in Sacramento. Still no medals, but I only missed by a little: 4th in the 100mH (into a 2.4 m/s headwind) with 18.90 (a new Canadian M65 record), 5th in the 300mH with 50.02 (a new BC M65 record) and 4th in the 4x400m relay with 4:53.57 -- all in all, a good year!

2012: Another slow year for the most part, thanks to a chronically aggravated Achilles and a move away from Vancouver & Richmond to Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island; I had planned an attempt to improve my short hurdles record in August at the WMA Regional Championships (concurrent with the Canadian Championships) in St. John, NB, but my performance at the BC Championships was so poor that I pretty much gave up after that, to concentrate on repairing my Achilles and building a base withh the distance runners in Qualicum. However, I did run in the BC Seniors Games (having already paid the entry fee) -- and Lo! I made my best TJ and ran my best 400 in 3 years! Maybe I should try getting fat and lazy more often?

2013: Not so hot. The Achilles tendonitis (I know the MDs spell it "tendinitis", but that's just crazy!) persisted through late 2012 and was joined by a chronic knee injury which I am assured is not another torn meniscus, but no one seems to be able to tell what it is. Now that I'm officially old, I find that every MD I meet advises me to stop running and take up some less stressful activity. (Personally, I think they're in a hurry to bring on that stroke or heart attack that will terminate my costly medical burden on society.) Anyway, I was unable to compete in any track meets or even time trials this summer, notwithstanding the running of hurdles for the first (and possibly last) time at the BC Seniors Games in Kamloops. I did manage to do one 5K and on Sep 16 I plan to try a 3K in the Terry Fox Run. But nary a hurdle this year. So now I'll strengthen up that knee with cautious weight work for a few months and hope it's ready for action by next spring.


But, hey, you probably didn't click on this item to hear about my personal exploits and travails; so let me offer something that might actually be useful to someone: A PostScript file showing plots (and second-order polynomial fits) of the Age-Graded Tables for the Men's Intermediate Hurdles. Alternatively, you can try my Age-Graded Table Lookup utility. Just enter your event, your age and your performance and the AGT utility will calculate the equivalent performance for a 20-25 year old.

Masters T&F enthusiasts will certainly want to visit the Masters T&F Web Site, masterstrack.com. Or you may want to stick around here in my MTF site where you can check out my little auxillary Masters T&F Database (you can put your name into the database if you so desire).

On my main Track & Field site you can register and use the Performances database, where you can type in your age, event and time or distance [and optionally the date, the meet, the conditions and some comments] if you want a record kept of your performances - this has interesting possibilities as a statistics-gathering tool....


Jess H. Brewer
Last modified: Thu Sep 19 10:15:20 PDT 2013