Monday, June 15, 2015

The Grim Mile 2015 Race Recap

I had never raced a mile on a track before. I had, however raced two "road" one milers in 2011 - the Navy Pier Mile and the Main Street Mile. Since these were both on the road, I was excited to see how I would do with an "official mile" at the Grim Mile held on Friday night. Perhaps I would feel a little like Roger Bannister for five minutes and change. After the evening was over I really fell in love with the format. If steady paced marathons are the slow drip of endorphins, then all-out mile races are a large syringe shot right in the jugular. I was flying high after this one, and realize that I could easily get addicted to this distance and the track (if I'm not already)!

I drove five miles due west of my house and arrived at the Luther North High School track where there was plentiful street parking.  I went in the high school's gym and got my bib and race singlet (first "free" race singlet ever). I went outside where they were holding the heats for kids and teenagers, and pinned my race bib on. I spotted Zoe who was hanging out, watching the heats unfold. She had decided to enter the women's elite race which would not be held for another 1.5 hours.
Hanging with Zoe before our respective heats

This was a casual race which was reminiscent of a high school track meet where the only distance was one mile. The track itself was old school, pre-metric, so each lap was a quarter mile, instead of the standard 400m, which meant that we only had to do exactly four laps. They had a concession stand that was open selling refreshments and multiple massage tables set out by Athletico. This was a sporting event for spectators to linger at and enjoy and it was free! 

Just before my heat, we went for a shakeout run around the block and then watched the successive 10 year age groups compete. I made a game out of trying to judge who was going to win, based on the pain reflected in the participant's facial expressions as they zoomed past each lap. That's the cool thing about a track race - you can watch an entire race unfold in front of your eyes and watch the form and the faces of the runners up-close all without having to move a muscle. Road races are obviously harder to keep track of when you're spectating live, as you only get to see a small chunk of the entire race.

Finally around 7:30, it was time for my age group race.

Milling around waiting for our race to start
My goal for the race was to run somewhere between a 5:15 and a 5:20 mile. 5:15 was based of the McMillan Calculator using my 5k time from April (18:10).  I really wanted to go sub-5:00, but I also wanted to run a decent, controlled race and not flame out just because my goal was unrealistic. By the way, a 4:59 mile according to McMillan is equivalent to a 17:18 5k! So, maybe it's out of my reach - for now.

Anyway, they actually used a starting gun for each heat (again very old school) and with a BANG! We were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  There were three women and three men in our heat. The other two guys shot out ahead of me, and I did not give chase, as I was really only trying to hit my goal for a 1:20 first lap. I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I didn't over-speed. Near the end of the first lap, I gradually made my way up to the guy in 2nd place....
Lap 1 in 3rd place
and by the end of the first lap came up to him and started to make my move. 1:19 (5:15/mile pace).
Making my move into 2nd Place after lap 1
Mile 0.50: I felt remarkably comfortable at this point, I guess all of my track-work was paying off. I kept behind the guy in the lead and started to separate from third place. 1:18 (5:10/mile pace).

Still in 2nd Place during lap 2
Mile 0.75: The leader swerved to lap a couple of runners who were taking up lanes one and two and a few seconds later I did the same. I was trying to keep good form and to focus on the leader and let him "pull" me along! 1:17 (5:10/mile pace).
About 30 feet behind at the end of lap 3
Mile 1.0: About 300m from the finish, I made my move. I wanted to at least be even with first place as we took the final turn, so I got right behind him, then quickly thereafter, we were running neck and neck. Then suddenly, boom goes the dynamite, I hit the accelerator like I have never hit it in my life, assuming he would make a move to chase me, I did not want to leave anything on the table.  I just kept pumping my arms and driving my legs as fast as possible.  1:10 (4:42/mile).

Making my move in the final straightaway
Flying towards the finish
Mile 1.05: My feet were flying so fast that it must have been someone else running this race. I have never seen my Garmin register anything below a 4:00/pace before! I crossed the finish line five seconds ahead in first place! 0:11 (3:49/mile)!

The moment my Garmin went below 4:00/mile pace for the first time ever!

Official Finish Time: 5:13.20
Official Pace: 5:13/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:01/mile

Place Overall: 1st out of 6

Since this was my first track mile - instant PR! My pacing was pretty spot on for my goal, and I even ran 2 seconds faster than plan, mainly in part to having a competitor who was evenly matched with me.

I don't know how I didn't run perfect tangents as I ran an extra (0.05) according to Garmin. I did a little passing, but really can't figure out the extra distance. Oh well. I am now interested in buying track spikes as I looked out of place racing with my road shoes! Those new spikes would likely get used soon, as I am seriously interested in trying to run more track races, perhaps an 800m next?

Awards ceremony with Mr. Grim (on the right)

Post Race:
I chatted with my fellow competitors and their coaches who were all analyzing my race and saying nice things. I then made my way back to sit down and watch the elite women's race (which Zoe won!), and then the elite men's race. Then it was time for the award's ceremony and we got to pose with Mr. Grim himself. I jumped in the car and headed home, completely pumped full of endorphins from the evening's events. Here's hoping I can get back to the track for another "fix" soon! 

Next Up:
Chicago Rock n' Roll Half.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Roselle Run for the Roses 2015 Race Recap

The plan for this race was simple: Go sub-18:00. However, it was not to be. On the bright side, I ran my 4th fastest 5k ever despite running in shoes filled with rainwater. Anyway, my plan had been something like this:

5:50, 5:43, 5:43, 5:00

This was not gonna be easy. My PR set in April, was 10 seconds slower than than my goal for this race. However, I figured why not set my sights high and see what happens?

I woke up at 4:30 am for a two mile shakeout run around Welles Park. When I returned home, I had my standard pre-race fare: a cup of coffee, and a bagel with peanut butter. I checked the forecast and it looked like rain was supposed to hit the area right around 8:00 am, which also happened to be the time the race started. Oh yeah, thunderstorms were also "likely" around that time - so things were not looking good. In any case, my dad, who was also running the race and I jumped into the car and we headed out. We got to the race parking lot in about 35 minutes.

Waiting for the race (and rain) to start
We picked up our bibs and race packets, then sat in the car for a 30 minutes and watched dark clouds roll in. About 10 minutes before the race was scheduled to start, the skies opened up and it began pouring rain. We debated whether to wear disposable ponchos over to the start line, but decided not to, since we were going to get wet regardless once we took them off once the race started. I did put my hat on to keep some of the rain out of my eyes, which I think was a good call. When I got in the corral, the rain was still coming down and suddenly there was a flash of lightning then a loud boom of thunder. I was wondering if the race emcee was going to announce that the race was cancelled. Instead, he introduced a former Chicago Bear (Desmond Clark?) and then the Roselle "Rose Queen" who was wearing a sash. She promptly pressed down on the button of an air horn and we were off!

Start of the Race (see Desmond Clark on the RHS) (src)
The Race:
Mile 1:  It was raining so hard that there were already big puddles on the side of the road. There was a group of about 20 soaked spectators holding signs and cheering wildly, which shows a lot of dedication! Anyway, after about a half a mile, my clothes, my hat and my shoes were completely waterlogged. I also had to do quite a bit of weaving around smaller kids who had gone out way too fast. On top of all of this, we were running headlong into strong storm winds. Just before the "Mile 1" marker, I glanced at my watch and realized I has slipped ten seconds behind my goal pace. 5:55/mile.

Mile 2: Yes, I was only ten seconds off of my pace, but that was a huge ten seconds to make up - I was giving it my all and weighed three pounds heavier since I was soaking wet. I realized that a sub-18:00 was not in the cards but was hoping to get a shot at my PR at the very least. We made our way through a typical 1970s suburban neighborhood. One of the runners next to me plashed in a puddle and yelled "puddles"! At the "Mile 2" marker I saw that I was 20 seconds off of my goal pace. 5:55/mile.

Mile 3: I felt like my legs could not turnover any faster, so I knew that a PR for all intents and purposes, had slipped away. Since the race was nearly over, I told myself to use any energy that was left "in the tank" to get in a fast mile. In the pouring rain, I began "pour" it on with all I had left. My legs did not feel like they were moving faster, yet I was passing other runners. I guess that even a small increase in speed over the last mile is enough to pick off runners that are slightly fading. Crossing the "Mile 3" marker, I finally got close to my goal pace (5:45)! 5:46/mile.

Mile 3.15: There was a sharp, speed killing turn and then a 50 yard dash to the finish line. I used a last burst of speed to pick off two more runners right at the end.  5:05/mile.

Official Finish Time: 18:20
Official Pace: 5:55/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:50/mile

Place Overall: 44th out of 790 
Place Age Group: 5th out of 38 

Standing in the post-race rain
I could complain about the conditions, and maybe I could have run a handful of seconds faster if it wasn't raining, but I won't. Conditions are never perfect for any race, and one day when I have enough sub-18 speed in my legs, I will go sub-18. One thing I would do differently would be to force myself to run a faster first mile. If I get too far off of goal pace in a 5k, it makes it nearly impossible to make up the time, since it's such a short race. For my next 5k, I'm going to try to make sure and hit goal pace the first mile and try to somehow hold on for the rest of the race. Maybe I'm leaving too much in reserve until the end of the race?

Post Race:
I walked back along the course and found a relatively dry spot under a large tree and waited for my dad to run by. Then I ran the last 300 yards of the race with him. The day before he had run a 5k in Wheaton and finished 1st in his age group and on this day he got 3rd! Nice. We got to the car, changed shirts, socks and shoes, put towels on the car seats and headed home to dry off!

Next Up:
Two days of easy miles, then The Grim Mile in four days!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Yay for 5ks

I registered for the Roselle Run for the Roses 5k which takes place this Sunday. The last time I ran a 5k, I PR'd. My weekly mileage since then has been less than stellar, but my track workouts have been faster than ever. So it remains to be seen if my newfound leg speed can compensate for lungs which might not be able to hold pace for 3.1 miles. One thing I've noticed with my decreasing mileage and increasing track work is that I'm gaining weight. I want to believe that my weight gain is due to new fast twitch leg muscles which were dormant during my marathon training. In reality it is probably just regular weight gain due to excessive cake and ice cream!

Anyway, it's time to think about race strategy. If I examine how my PR race at the Ravenswood Run went a month ago, my quarter mile cumulative paces looked like this:

I finished the race averaging 5:47/mile, which equaled an 18:10 finishing time. Depending on how well I run the tangents, I will have to run an average pace of 5:45/mile to get close to breaking 18:00. So, I'm hoping my race on Sunday looks something like this:

So, this time I'll try a faster start and then attempt to "lock in" my goal pace. After that I just need to hold on for dear life until I cross the finish line. I will need a slight kick over the final 3.15 to help push me across the finish line under 18:00, so I will need a little reserves for the final stretch. All of this of course, depends on the weather/wind and how I am feeling on race day. Time to rest up and get my legs ready to run like champions!