June 03, 2023 5 min read 11 Comments
Andrea Collier. Her imagination and devotion led to a medal on a world stage. Photo courtesy Masters Track & Field News.
*Check out of the photos at the end of the story of her unique training method.
By Ray Glier
Athletes have a storehouse from which to choose for matching means to ends. Specific exercises, gear, training methods, coaches, you name it, all to go faster, higher, longer.
None of that science and mentoring eclipses the athlete's own imagination and insourcing. You can find answers looking in, not out.
We can easier understand how Andrea Collier, 56, won a bronze medal in Poland at the World Masters Athletics championships when we see her resourceful training (imagination).
We can also see how Collier then figured out a flaw in her process, all without a computer, without A.I., and with precious little time (insourcing).
This is why Andrea’s story should be enduring to the rest of us, whether we are competing for medals or exercising for fun. She figured things out on the fly, so to speak. We can, too.
Collier, who is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the 100 and 200 meters outdoors (W55), works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and travels. She was in New Jersey on assignment in January and did not have access to a track to train for the 60m hurdles indoors, which she was running in Poland March 23 at the World Masters Athletics championships. Her ultimate goal in 2023 was to medal at WMA.
So Collier went to a Dollar Tree store and spent $15 so she could make six hurdles using garden fence and those foam rollers we use to flop in the pool.
Andrea stuck those dummy/proxy hurdles into the frozen ground at a New Jersey park. And she was able to train on the road.
How is that for imagination?
There is a picture of those hurdles at the bottom of this story and a shot of Collier training with neighborhood houses in the background. This is how you train for a world competition, if you love it.
“When I travel for work, I often times do not have access to track equipment, or even a track, for that matter,” Collier said. “So when it comes to training for the hurdles, I have to think outside the box.
“Hurdling is technical and has a three-step rhythm to it. In order to be competitive, you need to be able to three-step and race between hurdles and for some people that comes natural to them. It doesn't come natural to me. I have to practice.”
Collier, who is from Orlando, practiced in New Jersey through the late winter on those hurdles that cost less than $3 apiece.
Here is the fascinating part of the story from a track & field perspective.
In Poland at the world championships in her heat race, Collier felt off. She finished third in her heat at 10.39 seconds. Her goal was to medal on the big stage, but she wasn’t going to do it with that time. She had that empty-belly feeling, the anxiety of being "off."
“It was a struggle,” she said. “I was really disappointed.”
Collier went to practice for the final searching for her missing rhythm. What Andrea discovered was that she was “floating” over the hurdles. That’s when Collier realized she trained in that New Jersey park with hurdles that were 24 inches tall, not the regulation height of 30 inches. It was March now and she was floating over 30-inch barriers and it was costing her precious time.
She worked over and over in the practice area before the final, which started just before 1 p.m. Andrea began getting her rhythm back late in the morning. When the final came that afternoon, Collier found salvation. Her timing was back.
“I reminded myself that ‘hey, this is what you worked for’,” Andrea said.
In the final, she went 9.93 and got a bronze in a terrific race, which was won by Petra Bajeat of France at 9.75. When the results were announced in Torun, Collier stood on the track and put her head in her hands and sobbed at reaching her goal. (The W55 final photo is incorrectly listed under W50. Click on camera).
What made the bronze in the world games more special was that Collier was racing with a meniscus tear in her right knee. She first felt it July, 2022 at The National Senior Games. She felt something again in January of this year.
“I was told to take some time off,” Collier said. “I tried to do alternate things and get some cardio work in riding the bike.
“I didn’t know if I was going to have a season.”
It turns out, Collier has had quite a season, indoor and outdoor. It is early June and already she has raced 21 times in various events. She is gleeful at every chance to run down the track.
“I love track and field; it is not a hobby. It's my passion,” Andrea said. “I have been in love with this sport for 40-plus years. I love it just as much now as I did when I was little kid.”
Collier is all over Facebook with her posts and promoting the sport. Maybe the sprinter Willie Spruill is as enthusiastic, but no one else.
“I was talking to another friend and I said you know it is very difficult for me to just exercise without a purpose,” Andrea said. “Yes, you can exercise for health reasons, and I get that, but I think for me, I just needed that extra motivation and that competition element that comes with track and field.
“I'm not trying to compete with my younger self. I just try and get better.”
Along the way, Collier has showed the mental dexterity to stay on the track and compete against obstacles rolled toward her. Her imagination and insourcing comes from devotion to her sport.
In 2021, Andrea broke her right foot six weeks before the USATF Outdoors Masters. She couldn’t run, but she could throw. She entered the shot and discus. There she is in the rankings, down in the 70s. How is that for love of the sport? And she is still throwing now that she is healthy on two feet.
It is a little distressing to Collier that women are not as enthused as she is and lagging behind men in participation in the 55-59 cohort.
At least the women have the right person at the front leading the charge to expand the sport and show its value on the street-level.
“People need to know and see that you can still compete at a high level. You still can enjoy a sport of track and field regardless of whether you've never done it before," Collier said. "It's fun, the friendships that I've made over time. It's amazing.”
These are Andrea's homemade hurdles.
This is Andrea going over those homemade hurdles.
Please support Geezer Jock. Buy a hat, tee-shirt, contribute.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
September 23, 2023 3 min readRead More
September 09, 2023 5 min read 6 CommentsRead More