I ran the mile today at the PVTC meet, finishing in 5:35. Yup, another mile. And faster than the last time I ran this meet, though slower than my road mile.
And yes, you'll be seeing a lot of these - the DC area has a whole slew of mile track races, and I intend to run nearly all of them? Why? Because I like racing, and I like working towards a goal. And though my ultimate focus is on the longer stuff, this shorter stuff is good for my form and my speed.
So, headed down to the track, again. Jogged the warm-up with first my friend PJ and then my friend Claire, and then lined up in the field with the other milers, while the race officials decided how to split the race. They divide it into heats, with the exact dividing time hinging on everyone's projected time. Usually they split the fastest heat at 5:30, which meant that I fell right on the dividing line between the two (and could fairly pick either). In the past, I've tried both heats, and run much faster in the faster heat. Today, however, they divided the heat at 5:20. I debated for a bit, and then put myself in anyway. 5:2x was possible for me on a good day, and I didn't want to be the fastest one in the slower heat. I wanted to be towed, rather than the tower.
So we lined up, and the gun went off. Mindful of the fact that most likely everybody in this group was a bit faster than I (and that I like to negative split anyway), I resolved to let myself fall to the rear of the pack for the first 400m at least. My hope was that people would start to fade, and I could pick them off.
By 200m, I was in the rear, and happily, in lane 1. There was an older guy about 2 seconds in front of me - my hope was that I could use him to tow me. So I essentially just focused on him for the next few minutes, trying to close the gap, and ignoring the somewhat satisfying burning that hit about 800m or so into the race. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite seem to catch up, and his lead built on me by another second or so with each lap.
By the last lap, he was far enough ahead that I had lost contact. I did spot someone else ahead, what looked like a teenage boy who was struggling. I worked to hunt him down, while keeping my form as relaxed as possible, and my knees lifting. With about 150m to go, on the last turn, I passed him to the outside. This woke him up, and he surged, I surged back, and kept my lead for a split second, and then he took off (I'm guessing from the spandex and the way he took off that he does some sprinting). I pumped my arms for all they were worth, while keeping the rest of my body relaxed and moving fast, but I just didn't have the gear he did. Argh. I came rolling in through the finish in 5:35. Not the 5:2x I'd like, but not bad. I'm getting there.
I once again set my Garmin to autolap at around the start point, which in practice means somewhere between the start and finish (since it's a mile on the track, there's a bit of difference). Splits, each for something slightly over 400m, were 82/83/85/84. Not the negative split I would have liked, but no big fall off.
I was thinking that I might have gone out too fast, but my coach nixed that. And I see his point. If' I'm going to run 5:2x, then each lap needs to be 82 or faster. So I need to work more on that second half. I did a credible job today - I just need to do more work over the summer to make it better.
It'd also be nice to be able to surge. 3-4 years ago, it seemed like I had more of an ability to find that higher gear when I needed it (though I wasn't racing anything shorter than 5K). But then again, I also ran a lot of my workouts in a way that included surges - for example, one of my favorites was a tempo run at half marathon pace but with 10 seconds at mile pace every half mile (did this one on the treadmill). Now, my workouts are much more metronome like and even.
Of course, I'm also running significantly faster overall. And I wouldn't trade that for an ability to surge. So I'll just work on making my mile races a faster metronome. :)