So...I'm consistent, at least.
I really like to race just after coming off of a break. To me, it's an especially pure and fun kind of racing, since you're free of the expectations imposed by training. You just get out there and see what happens.
I also really like road miles, and wish there were more of them. So...when I saw that there was a road mile in Fredericksburg, a scant 50 or so miles away, entering was an easy choice. Fredericksburg is a lot closer than Pittsburgh, which was the last time I raced a road mile.
Of course, it's been a year since I've last raced the mile, and I've trained for and run three marathons in the space between. But, I'm planing on focusing on this distance for the next few months, with the goal of placing well at the US Masters Road Mile Champs in Michigan in late August, and then hopefully PRing at the 5th Avenue Mile in early September. So it made a lot of sense to just jump in and race this distance, and get familiar with it again. It's the ripping a band-aid off approach to life.
The drive down to Fredericksburg sucked. Because it involved I-95 in Northern Virginia, of course. I had originally planned to drive down earlier in the day, and hang out in Fredericksburg and run some errands there (I could drop stuff off at the UPS store and buy non-perishables as easily there as I could here). But, after seeing the traffic reports, I decided to hang out at home and wait until the early afternoon, when the worst of the southbound traffic had passed.
Note to self - not a great idea. Because while the traffic was better on a whole in the afternoon, the toll express lanes switched from southbound to northbound. I would have been better off just leaving earlier, and using the toll lanes. So now I know for next time.
Just slightly less than 2 hours after leaving home (yes, ~2 hours for ~50 miles), I pulled into the Golds Gym of Fredricksburg, where I took 30 minutes to foam roll and stretch everything from the car ride before heading over to the race site to pick up my bib. Actually bibs. I had entered two heats just in case I felt like running both, but each heat required a separate bib. So I pinned one on and dropped the other off at my car, hoping I'd have the presence of mind to remember to switch if I ran both heats.
Then I warmed up by jogging 3 miles, mostly easy, but with about a quarter mile pretty hard. As part of my warm-up, I jogged the course twice to get a feel for it. It rolled a fair bit, with a gentle downhill start followed by a solid climb in the second quarter. Then do a 180 around a very small island in the road, and back down and then up again, before turning left to kick it in over the final 200 meters.
Strides, drills, chat with others, make new friends, more strides, and then we lined up. I set my Garmin to autolap every quarter mile. Not because I'd be checking splits during the race, but so that I had them after. Also, since this road mile wasn't marked in between the start and finish lines, I knew I'd find the buzzing of the Garmin every quarter helpful.
The start of the race was a bit awkward. They were attempting to time the start with a traffic light at some point down the course - I'm guessing for traffic flow purposes. What this meant was that the gun was supposed to go off right after the light changed to green. However, some of us (myself included) misinterpreted the instructions to mean we were supposed to start when the light turned green. Thus,a false start. After being called back to the line, we waited through another cycle of the light. And then the light turned green and THEN the gun went off, and we were off.
As is pretty normal for me, I was dropped in the first 200m. I knew that the downhill start would suck people out, and so I wanted to hang back a little before starting to build. By the end of the first quarter, I was in second, around 5 seconds behind the first woman. I decided to stay in contact with her, and then pull ahead when she started to struggle on the uphill in the last quarter.
So I pursued, running the uphill a bit more aggressively than I would have liked, but I never got closer than 2 seconds behind her. And then we hit the last quarter, and it was I who started to struggle while she pulled ahead. She won, leading wire-to-wire (major kudos for that), while I tied up in the last 200 meters.
As I approached the clock, I saw it counting into the 5:5x, and thought "that can't be right." But it was.
After sitting and collecting myself for a few minutes, I went back to my car to grab my second bib. I was still undecided on whether I was up for round 2, but I could jog a bit and then decide. I also decided to change shoes, from my new Adidas Sub-2s to my much loved Adidas Takumi Sens. This was as close as I would get to doing an apples-to-apples comparison of the two.
After jogging a mile, I decided to go for the second heat. My legs were heavy and stiff, but how I feel before a race isn't a good indicator of how I'll feel during the race. And it was also fun to try just as an experiment to see how I handled back-to-back races, in case it was helpful in the future.
So, I did EVEN MORE drills and strides, we lined up, and we were off. Again.
The second race was, unsurprisingly, much like the first. I was dropped and then worked my way up through people. The fact that it was a mixed open heat meant that there were more people in the heat, which meant more people to start out ahead of me, and then be passed. By the turnaround, I was third woman, with the first two women a good 8-10 seconds ahead.
I felt much better during the final quarter this time around, and was able to open up and hammer home. The result? 5:53 and third woman. And at least this time seeing 5:5x wasn't that much of a shock.
Splits for the two races were:
Heat 1: 85/91/83/90 (+2 seconds - Garmin claimed course was slightly long)
Heat 2: 87/95/84/88 (Garmin said course was right on - 1.0 miles)
Since I was using Garmin's autolap, and GPS isn't perfect, there's unquestionably some range of error included in these splits. And no, the fact that my Garmin measured the course as 1.02 the first time and 1.0 the second doesn't mean that the course was magically reset between heats, or that the circumference of the earth is continually changing, or that I somehow didn't run the tangents. It just shows that Garmins have a range of error, and are not perfect.
I found it really interesting that, despite running essentially the same time twice, the second race felt much better. I think that this was in part the shoe change - the Takumi Sens just feel so much better at mile pace than the sub-2s do. It might also be because I always feel best in the last rep of a workout, or because it was cooler for the second heat.
Or, as my coach pointed out, because I went out slower in the second heat....
I think the answer is all of the above. So in my next mile race, I'm going to use my Takumi Sens. I'll also warm up a bit more thoroughly - doing more than one hard 400 before the race. And of course, I'll try to start slower.
- I'll confess I had naive hopes that I'd be able to run faster - I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I had felt surprisingly quick during the two Iwo Jima hill workouts that I've done since my post-marathon break. My thought was that the leg speed I noted during the hill workouts would combine with all that marathon fitness and strength into a decent mile performance. Nope. Instead I ran a pair of personal worsts for the distance. My take-away is that the strength needed to race the mile well is different from marathon strength. Marathon strength meant that I could run the mile twice all out with equivalent performances. But it didn't help me power through either individual race. Noted.
- The above does not mean, BTW, that I regret doing this race. I'm really happy I did it. It was a lot of fun and now I've got my feel back for this distance. I also now know what my current fitness is. I don't like where I am, fitness-wise, but that's what training is for.
- Temps were 88 degrees for the first heat, and 82 for the second. Hot, but I don't think it affected my performance.
- I wore my singlet instead of a sportsbra, despite the heat, to see if it would bother me any. Truth is, it's much easier to pin a number to a singlet than to my shorts (which I have to do if I wear a sports bra). And...I was definitely much less comfortable in the singlet. But I also don't think it affected my performance any. For a longer race in the heat, I definitely need to stay with the sports bra.
- I'm allergic to something in Fredericksburg. My eyes started watering and I started sneezing during my warm-up there, and almost 24 hours later my eyes are still puffy and I'm congested. I have no idea what it is, though.
- It kills me that I liked the Takumi Sens so much more than the Sub-2s. I had really hoped that the Sub-2s would replace my Takumi Sens, since the latter shoes are over 3 years old, and have proven impossible to replace. But, I only have 150 miles on the Takumi Sens so far, and they are Adidas Boost, which seems to last forever. So maybe I can just use them for a few more years, if I save them for road miles.