My plan this summer, as I've noted before, is to race the mile or shorter a lot. It's great for developing a comfort with running very fast and also a way to race without compromising one's training too much, as it requires very little taper or recovery. Additionally, the oppressive heat and humidity of a DC summer really isn't much of a factor for a race that lasts six minutes or less.
A few weeks back, I had been browsing the race listings, and I noted a cool-looking road mile out in Winchester, Virginia (about 90 minutes from DC). It looked like a lot of fun, but as someone who doesn't specialize in this distance, I really couldn't justify three hours total of driving for the race.
And then some friends who lived not too far from Winchester invited us to drive out and visit on the afternoon/early evening of the 26th (Saturday). Well, Saturday was booked, but....hey! We could go on Sunday, visit them, then stay over the night in Winchester (saving us a late night drive back to DC) and I could race the mile in the morning. Brian was on board, and a Sunday visit worked for our friends, and the plan was set.
So, we drove out to Winchester on Sunday (stopping on the way to give my horse a bath), checked in and showered at the hotel, then headed off to visit our friends. Dinner was fun, punctuated by a cute offer by our (non-running) hosts to provide a special meal so I could carb load for my race... I explained that this wasn't that type of race, and that steak was actually perfect.
[for the record, steak's pretty much perfect anytime]
We did stay out a bit past my bed time, but I wasn't terribly concerned -- the race wasn't until 9 am, and since it was just a fun thing for me, I wasn't too worried.
Then rolled out of bed in the morning, and did a leisurely jog to the start line (about 1200m from my hotel). And, since it was a mile race, I could also jog the entire course back and forth, and then some, for my warm-up. So I did, noting the elevation profile of the course. My coach had told us to be patient the first quarter mile, and then "let her rip". But when I jogged the course, I noted that the course had a decent uphill in the second quarter mile. So, I decided that patience was a virtue that could be extended, and that I'd avoid the temptation to attack the hill with everything I had, saving it for the end.
That was part of my plan. But the main plan was just to stay as relaxed as I could, run tall, and see what happened.
Jogged, did an extended set of drills and many stride plus one 400m repeat equivalent (done about 10 minutes before the race - my rationale was that since my first workout repeat always sucks, I might as well get it done before the race) and said hi to my teammates. And then we lined up, with the vibe much different and more intense than the longer races I've done. Seconds count a LOT in a mile race, and no one was losing even one at the start line. And the gun went off.
In retrospect, I've decided that a mile race, especially a road mile, is the closest that running comes to a rollercoaster. There's this sheer sense of tenseness/readyness at the start of a mile race that is so entirely different from any other race. It's very much like the silence right before a rollercoaster tips over the peak of the first descent. Then all of the sudden, the gun goes, and everything's in motion, and there's no thought at all. You just fly. And you're shocked at how quickly the race is over. Just gunshot....WHEE!...Finish!
I really didn't notice much during the race -- there wasn't much time. I did note that I was pretty far in the back during the first minute of the race, and then there was carnage as people started slowing on each side. The same thing happened on the back side of the hill on the second quartermile. As with everything in such a short race, the fades were very sudden. No..."I think she's coming back to me," just someone who was ahead, and then suddenly behind.
One fun feature of the race was that they had quartermile markers, with a person calling splits at each one. I generally ignore splits and just run by feel, but here I listened to them with a bit of fascination. Here they are, and my reactions:
First quarter: 82 -OK. I've heard this before, during some of my 400m repeats. Nothing to note here.
Second quarter: 2:48 - Also familiar - this is about as fast as I usually can run an 800m during practice. Cool. This number is familiar territory, and I'm still feeling pretty in control.
Third quarter: 4:09 - I have NEVER HEARD this number before. I have no idea how fast or slow this is, it's just foreign. Oh hey - there's the finish line. Just RELAX and don't stare at it.
(I was pretty good at the last bit. I did tighten up a bit at the very end of the race, but I think that's normal for a mile race)
And that was all I pretty much had time to think. The race went so quickly that even as I was idly processing the fact that I had just passed one marker, I was approaching the next. Very different from my experience in longer races where it's at least 6 minutes between each marker.
So splits ended up being:
1:22 (very slight downhill)
1:26 (decent uphill)
1:21 (decent downhill)
1:21 (very slight uphill, plus some slightly rough footing -- the last bit of the race was in a pedestrian mall, so the footing shifted from asphalt to bricks and stone).
And as was my experience with the one other mile race I've done, this was really not very painful. Oh sure, my lungs felt like they were on fire and my legs couldn't go any faster, but that's been true of many of my longer races too (and the lungs on fire happens during workouts in this humidity also, alas). But this time, when that happened, I only had about 30-40 seconds left in the race, instead of another mile or two. Like ripping a band-aid off. Easy. When can we do it again?
- Used inhaler twice an hour before, and twice 20 minutes before race. Needed it once more after. My lungs feel like someone took a blow torch to them. But it was worth it.
- Temperature of 75, DP of 70, and sunny. But not a factor during the race at all (except for the sunburn).
- This was really fun. A+ would do again.
- Started a bit behind the start line, as the field was pretty stacked, and I had no business being further up. But, since it was not chip-timed, part of me wonders if I actually broke 5:30...one can dream, I guess. Or just race again, that's more fun.