Kamloops WR man Chris Bates hoping to reshuffle M45 dec

Chris Bates, world record holder!

Reason 2,132 why I love track: people coming out of the woodwork to surprise us all. On the kiddie level, this happens all the time. But I really dig it when “unknowns” shock the masters world. Such is the story of Christopher Bates of Oregon. Although I’ve had email contact with Chris in recent months, his stunning M45 pentathlon world record at Kamloops brought me to my feet. And my legs were amputated 10 years ago. So I wrote for details on his life and track career. His note brought a revelation: “Your email response to me in Kamloops was exciting, because no one had actually confirmed I broke the record. So reading the USATF release you pointed me to was a bit of a thrill. . . . The results weren’t announced while I was at the arena. . . I guess their computer system didn’t spit out records automatically.” Welcome to masters, Chris! Hope you stay for as long as Emil and Denver.

Chris opened his pent with a 9.28-second mark in the 60-meter hurdles. (All photos courtesy of Chris Bates, taken by Vision Quest)

Here’s what Chris told me about himself and Kamloops:

I started age-group track at 9, and between then and 14 there were several times that my marks were at or near the top in the nation. I high jumped 5-10 at 12 and 6-0 at 13, and those were 1 and 2, I believe, at the time.

In 1976, my family went to Montreal and saw Jenner win, and after that all I cared about was winning the Olympic decathlon. After a couple of rough adjustment teenage years, I got back on track (so to speak) and as a senior in high school at Aloha High School in Beaverton did the long jump, discus and both hurdles in dual meets.

Chris put the shot 39-4 at Kamloops.

At the Oregon state meet in 1983, I long jumped 24-0 (w2.5) and got third behind J.J. Birden (later NFLer) and Chris Bolden. My jump would have won every other year except 1961 when Mel Renfro jumped 24-1 I think. Bummer. I never did the HJ in dual meets or really practiced, but jumped 2.05 that summer in a decathlon at the USA Junior nationals that got me on the USA Junior team that competed against Canada and Italy in a triangular meet. There was no world meet at that time.

My high school decathlon marks in the long jump (23-4), 2k discus (145-6), and high jump are still near the top of the event lists — just behind Donovan Kilmartin, Brian Brophy, Curtis Beach and a couple others in the high jump. There aren’t any lists of those marks; that’s just my own research. My HS point score with senior implements of 7000 even is not in the Top 10, but it’s close, maybe 12th. My HS hurdles and discus were 14.4 and 38.8 and 170 feet. In 1983, I was a USA Today All-American in track, for what its worth.

I went to San Diego State to be in the sun when Dixon Farmer and Stan Vegar were there. I was there the same time Aaron Thigpen and Johnny Speed were on the team, so we could make a relay team of ex-Aztecs now!

Unfortunately, I hurt my back training as a freshman and could barely compete, although I did do one decathlon and scored 7417. My next year in February I did a 7462 practice decathlon in the rain, but then just a week later injured my hamstring badly enough that it eventually took a year and a half to get better. I was lifting too much and probably had some imbalances that caused the injury. That was all she wrote for my Olympic dreams.

Chris long-jumped 19-11 1/2 in his M45 world record.

My PB’s when I quit at age 20 added up to almost 8000. I just didn’t have the maturity and patience at that point in my life to grit through all the injuries, and maybe I thought I was too injury prone. I concentrated on my school work, went to Germany for a year abroad, then after graduation worked in NYC for a couple years before coming back to Portland to work in financial consulting with my Dad.

For the past few years I’ve been semi-retired, working from home, which gave me time to go out and do some track again! I met Brian Coushay, another fantastic masters trackster, here in Portland through a mutual friend, and we started running intervals together about 5 years ago. I had always gone out running through the years because I love running, and never really got in bad shape or heavy, but I hadn’t done one iota of jumping or throwing or hurdling really in 20 years.

Brian encouraged me a couple times to try a decathlon, but I poo-poohed that idea as crazy talk. I was barely aware that masters could do that stuff, although I did come to see that my old coach Stan Vegar had the AR for a while in the 40 age group, I think.

I started long jumping a little bit and won the LJ at nationals in 2008, and after that something clicked and I decided to try to train for the decathlon knowing I would be turning 45 in 2009. I started to train for the decathlon the only way I knew how — like a 20-year-old! It was too much for my body to handle, I suppose, and led most of the injuries, the worst of which were a shoulder impingement which kept me from throwing and vaulting, a magical swelling knee (Enter the tent and Watch it Grow for No Reason at all!), Achilles’ tendinosis, pulled hamstring and bruised heel all in my takeoff leg. The heel was really frustrating because it had nothing to do with age, I just landed on it wrong while hurdling.

I managed to win the long jump again in Oshkosh, and get second in the high jump. I was proud of the HJ because it was only my second time high jumping in a meet since ’85. Still, my groins were bothering me, which led to a pulled stomach muscle that forced me to stay home from Lahti. I tried the nationals in Seattle, and was doing OK until I pulled a O’Brien/Hardee and no-heighted in the vault, which was just due to so little practice.

I told myself if this year was like last year injury-wise that I just wouldn’t go on, but the second year of training has been much better so far, although the groin and stomach still bother me. I need my groin to loosen up if I’m going to be able to do enough speed work to get the WR in the decathlon.

Training for the dec as a master really is different than as a youngster, and I will have to tilt it towards more distance running and less sprinting. We can go out and run the miles, but we can never get back the fast-twitch muscle we lose! That’s one reason Kip did such a fantastic decathlon as a 40-year-old. The pure sprinter type decathlete will have a harder time of it as a master.

High jump is one of Chris' best events. He cleared 5-11 1/2 at worlds.

My other comment on the training aspect is weight. Weight is definitely the enemy for a masters athlete, and I can see how the best are always smaller and leaner than the young guys and girls have to be. As a decathlete in your 20s, you can be over 200 lbs. and have no problem overcoming that weight to run a good 400 and 1500, but those guys as masters are going to have a problem as well.

At 6-1, 183 I feel like I’m a little heavy, although my body fat’s not too bad. I’d like to be closer to 175, so that’s my goal by June. Five to 8 pounds would help me out a lot.

I had to baby my groin a little going into Kamloops, so my speed work hasn’t been as good as I’d like. Still, I hurdled a lot last fall, and I thought I could get the record if my groin made it through the hurdles and long jump. I felt like my potential was around 4300, so I had a little room to play with.

I didn’t really like my hurdle time at 9.28 because I thought I should be under 9, but again, it was my second hurdle race since college, and racing is different than practice. My long jump was OK for the time of year, but I thought I could jump a little farther. I feel like if I can high jump 6-1. I should be able to jump 21-0, but that may have to wait for the outdoor season.

So after two events, I didn’t think I would get the record because I was behind pace. Luckily I got a 2½-foot masters PB in the shot with 39-4, so then I knew if I high jumped close to 1.80 meters (5-10 3/4) I would get it. I jumped once at 1.67, once at 1.73, then made 1.79 on my second attempt, and knew then that I could run the 1000 fast enough to get it.

I made 1.82 (with a big clearance that would have made 1.84-1.85 probably) and another PB on my last attempt to make the job a little easier. I did leave some points on the table in the 1000 because I’m in shape to run faster than 3:09. I went out a little fast, then fell asleep in the middle. Oh well.

Chris beat Winchester Johnson of Canada and Torsten Grotz of Austria at Kamloops.

I didn’t want to spend the whole week in Kamloops, and my wife couldn’t stay away from work that long, so I had never planned to do any other events. I entered the Boston nationals in case I didn’t get the record in Loops, but I think now I won’t go and just turn my attention to the outdoor season. I’ve got some wood to chop in the pole vault and javelin. The WR may be within reach, but I won’t predict it. I’m just going to make sure I don’t no-height and get the AR.

I wouldn’t mind doing 7500 because that was Rex Harvey’s record before the meanies took it away due to the new javelin. If the big one comes, then fine, but it won’t be easy. Gruzenkin had a monster first day with the field events, but I can stay close in those events and kill him in the running events. I think I can go into the 4:40’s and hopefully get my discus consistently over 130’.

There are so many things that can go wrong for a masters decathlete, though. I hate to make any predictions! There’s the decathlon at Dos Pueblos HS that is open to masters and sanctioned, I believe, so that and the national meet in Joplin are the two decathlons I plan to do. I’ll be at the Hayward Classic and Sacramento (nationals). I really want to jump against and lose to Mike Powell if he actually comes out; that would be a thrill.

Masters track truly is inspirational, watching these folks in such fantastic shape. It’s been fun meeting Bill Murray and hearing his story (from you), and I have the good fortune of working out a bit with Bob Hewitt who lives here in Portland. He’s my Dad’s age, and watching him do what he does is amazing, although he does give me a hard time when I say I have 30 years to train for his record. He thinks it’ll be hard to last that long, and I’m sure he’s right. I didn’t meet Marie Kay in Kamloops, but her marks are embarrassingly good.

It’s been great to get involved with the jumps and hurdling again because I really love this stuff, and that’s certainly the only reason to do it at this age. Hurdling is just damn fun, and that’s why it’s so frustrating to be injured. I don’t care about the performance as much as just being able to do it as hard as I can.

I think if Kip (Janvrin) did come out he would break the record for sure, but I hear he hurt his ankle pretty badly last year and finally hung up the spikes. Hopefully, he’ll get back in shape. I would like to see him out here because he was such an institution in American decathloning and also D.O’brien, that would be a thrill to see him do another decathlon, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. If he didn’t like the 1500 as a 25-year-old, he really won’t like it as a 45-year-old, which would be 2011 for him.

I live closer to Lake Oswego than Portland, and train kind of all over. I live close to Lewis and Clark College, so I use that track a lot, and I work with Rick Baggett and David Lemen at Rick’s indoor pole vault facility in Oregon City. My wife, Michelle, is a very busy attorney, and puts up with this stuff as long as I don’t talk about it all the time. I have a 15-year-old daughter and even two cats.

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March 18, 2010

17 Responses

  1. Greg Foster - March 18, 2010

    Congratulations! Outstanding performance in Kamloops. Good luck in your M45 decathlon record attempt.

  2. Gary Dixon - March 18, 2010

    Great job in Kamloops…I watched your HJ and 1000 from my vantage point of my M50 penta…….IMPRESSIVE! Best of luck.

  3. Ken Stone - March 18, 2010

    As is obvious, Chris is a great storyteller.

    Now I learn he has a blog!

    Looking forward to more fascinating yarns!

  4. Weia Reinboud - March 18, 2010

    Please metric…

  5. Dan Murdock - March 18, 2010

    You often complain about results not in metric. Grab a calculator – here is how to convert. Change the inches into feet (divide number of inches by 12) and add that to the feet. Take the total number of feet and divide by 0.3048, and presto-converto, metric!! Or just memorize some reference points and some general conversions such as 10 cm = 4 inches, 30 cm = 1 foot, 7 m = 23 feet, 50 m = 165 feet, 30.50 m = 100 feet. Those aren’t exact, but give you a ballpark figure. I used to be able to do them in my head when I was competing in college and coaching in college. I was at small D-I and D-III schools, which usually use metric. It wasn’t uncommon to have a meet at a D-II school that used feet & inches.

  6. Weia Reinboud - March 19, 2010

    I know how to calculate. On top of this page you see ‘Independent world and USA home page’ – but there is only one country that sometimes uses imperial measurements. Most masters in the world simple do not read non-metric stories and this slowly becomes my attitude too: not metric, don’t read.

  7. Anonymous - March 19, 2010

    I don’t complain to other sites if the results aren’t in imperial. This was a story about US athlete so he will state things in imperial but there are some metric numbers too for those who dont want to bother with any conversion efforts. If they dont read non-metric stories it is their loss.

  8. Ken Stone - March 19, 2010

    Sorry, Weia.

    I’ll do better in future. I didn’t want the photo captions to run long, so I kept distances in Imperial. I use the Big Gold Book metric conversion tables all the time. I’ll use them more often.

  9. Dan Murdock - March 19, 2010

    Well, if you don’t want to read Imperial, don’t read it. To be exact, if the event was measured Imperial, it should be reported Imperial. Also, I am guessing 75% of the audience of this site is American and the author is American, so what do you expect? Is this something worth complaining about?

  10. Mary Woo - March 19, 2010

    Weia wasn’t complaining. She was simply making a request. Sheesh.

  11. Don Baumrucker - March 20, 2010

    I agree with Weia. The rest of the world is metric. We should be too. Conversion is time consuming and brain deafening.

  12. JStone - March 23, 2010

    How about we all learn both? If my fellow Americans learn metrics, then they too will see that metric conversions don’t always lead to uniform measurements.

    In the high jump for example; 6’0″ (1.83), 5’10” (1.78), 5’8″ (1.73), and 5’6″ (1.68) all drop 2 inches per 5 cm. But 1.63 is the next 5 cm drop and it is 5’4.25″.

  13. Weia Reinboud - March 23, 2010

    Non-metric results are illegal results, IAAF-ways. So measure always metric and eventually add imperial between brackets.

  14. Torsten Grotz - October 22, 2010

    Hi Chris,

    I just popped into this page and am glad having shared this memorable day with you in Kamloops. Congratulations once more for your world record, it was a great competition. As for you during this day a dream came reallity for me as well – winning a medal in the world masters championship. What are your plans for the next 12 months?
    If I am not getting injured I’ll try to prepare for the decathlon in Sacramento July next year. Hope to keep in touch, regards to M.
    All the best

  15. Gregory Johnson - March 5, 2011

    Keep up the great performances! You are able to keep improving. You are an inspiration to us all!

  16. Mike Marsh - March 6, 2011

    Congrats on your performances, Chris! I competed vs you at PSU in the 1983 Jr Nationals (I was 4th). I had a real bad knee that summer that made me redshirt ’84. I, too, struggled w/ injuries in college at ACU, but scored 7200-7300 and was D.@ AAmerican a few times. God bless you and continued success! Mike

  17. Alison - August 11, 2012

    Was watching Olympics and thinking about the guy I knew who was a Decathlete at SDSU. Was hoping that Olympic dream came true to you, but just read your blog. You were so dedicated, an I can tell you still are!!
    We had some fun times…..do you remember me? We met at the health food store on campus.
    Glad you are well and happy!!! Keep up the good work.

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