We catch up with Erika Pierce: 10xUSATF Masters National Champ, American Record Holder in the W40 Indoor Heptathlon & W45 Outdoor Heptathlon, 1996 Olympic Trials participant in the 400m Hurdles.. and mom! Learn more about Erika, her training, and Masters Multi competition!
LESKO: How many masters competitors are there in the multi-events?
ERIKA: In a masters multi-event competition, such as a Pentathlon or Heptathlon, there could be as few as 3-4 participants or there might be as many as 10-15. The last meet I competed in there were about 10 of us – including high school and open athletes as well as a handful of masters. All of the events are age-graded so I am competing against everyone in total points, but as a 45 year old I will score more points for the same time, height, or distance as someone who is, say, 22. This allows competitors of all ages to compete against each other; I don’t just run the 200m with people my age, but with all athletes entered in the meet. In my last meet of the season in September I broke the American Record in my age group (W45) and I also ended up coming in first place in total points out of all competitors.
L: Do you think Masters shy away from more technical events?
E: I definitely think Masters shy away from the multis. The seven events in the Heptathlon are the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters. Most of these events are highly technical and if you haven’t grown up doing them they are difficult to pick up and train for as an adult. Indoors they swap the javelin for the pole vault and that was a challenge for me – learning a new field event in my 40s. Also, these events are extremely hard on your legs. Every time I escape a meet without a serious injury, I feel like I have succeeded!
L: What is a go-to strength session for you?
E: I spend a lot of time in the weight room. Jumping strength is key for what I do, so the more powerful my legs are the further and higher I will jump. I do squats, lunges, cleans/jerks and a lot of high-impact jumping. But, I also need to maintain serious flexibility so I regularly do yoga to lengthen my muscles and stay limber. And I do core work pretty much every day.
L: Give us one of your recovery secrets.
E: I am actually a total boss at recovery and not over-training. I have come to learn that less is more, at least for me. I only train on the track about 2 times a week even in the middle of my season. The other days I am stretching, doing a bike workout, lifting, hurdle drills/yoga, etc. I am a huge fan of running hills and I incorporate hill work every week. As my outdoor season progressed this year, I was pretty broken down physically – my achilles tendons were painful and tight and I would limp around after every workout I did. The second day of the heptathlon this past month I actually woke up and could not walk because of the pain. Just thinking about having to still compete in the long jump, javelin and 800 made me pretty nervous. My second day was not pretty, but all of us out there were in the same situation – sore and physically beaten up. Add to that the 100 degree heat, and I was a complete mess. I am currently taking a month off of training to fully recover before I start ramping up for indoors.
L: If you had to pick a favorite event of the seven, what would it be?
E: My bread and butter in the multi-events are the hurdles. It is the event that I score the most points for based upon my times. But, my favorite is probably the javelin. There is something so primal about taking a freaking spear and throwing as far as you can. It’s the only event where I grunt – I can’t help it! I also love that I surprise people with how far little old me can chuck that thing. I have won the open javelin in many masters meets and I think it always shocks the other throwers.
L: Favorite flystyle?
E: Over the course of a two-day meet with seven events, I go through a lot of flystyle! I wear my competition briefs and my ¾ top for most of the events, but in the down time, I go through a lot of clothes – it’s like 2 full loads of meet laundry when I return from a 2 day meet! I have to warm up and cool down for each event, so there are layers upon layers that are put on and stripped off. Right now, though, my favorite item that I can’t take off is the Nelle long sleeve. I also have my eye on the Quill Vest - it will be an upcoming acquisition for sure!
L: Pump up mantra on the 2nd day of competition?
E: I like to cuss - I will say to myself “right the fuck now” – because it is easy to think ahead to future events and not give the proper physical and mental effort into the event you are doing at that moment. It’s kind of like I have heard that distance runners will say “run the mile you are in.” You have to fight to be present.