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.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! How is your speedwork going?

    2. I went the first two weeks. 2nd week we did a tempo run and it was a bit hard because I went out too fast. Today was supposed to be hill repeats (3rd week) but I was too tired to get out there. Needed extra sleep. I'll resume next week. Thanks for asking!

    3. You mad a good choice getting extra sleep. I sometimes wear myself down by not getting enough sleep corresponding to the mileage I'm running. :)

  2. How fun was that? I do love my mile repeats...not nearly as fast as you, but still fun! Awesome work!

    1. Lots o' fun! Yes, there is something magical about the mile and mile repeats are fun for me as well. Thanks!

  3. Congrats, Pete! That's seriously amazing to me that you can run that fast. You're right, your speedwork is definitely paying off! I'm sure you'll kill it at RNR Chi!

    1. Thanks Beth! I have to start running more long, slow distance to prep for the RnR!

  4. Incredible job, Pete! Do you have any good speed workouts to recommend?

    1. Thanks Austin. I try to keep it simple at the track. Usually do a 2 mile warm-up followed by a basic descending ladder 1.0, .75, .50, .25 with walk breaks in-between. Then about a two mile cool-down. I try to do the minimum speed workouts necessary to keep my fast twitch muscles active. I want to stay healthy and know that there are diminishing returns on doing too much on the track.

  5. Holy crap!!! I'm impressed you can read your Garmin and run that fast simultaneously. Seriously -- kudos, dude. This night and event sound perfect!

    1. Thanks dude! The first lap I was glancing down at Mr. Garmin a few times, but it was worth it to keep me from over-speeding! Yes, I love that it was a small affair and felt like a track meet,

  6. Wow Pete! This is amazing! Way to rock out at the track! Congrats on the win!

  7. 3:49/mile.... holy cow!!!! amazing effort. congrats. very cool to try something different

    1. Well, that 3:49 was only for 11 seconds, but I'll take it! :) Thanks! Yes, I'm glad I am able to hop down to shorter races and still have fun running fast!

  8. Love this! Great job! You are AMAZING!!!

  9. Congrats! You are the master at pacing! WTF on that AG win!

    I did a relay on a track last year and was surprised my Garmin ended up so off at the end of the day (counting laps vs using it). I went by the Garmin for mileage, since it was higher, of course ;)

    Did the people not get over so you could pass them! LAME!

    I hope you do more of these! It was fun to read and I would love to spectate one!

    1. Thanks! I think that the lapped runners didn't realize they were about to be lapped until it was too late! As for the extra .05 miles, I have come to the tentative conclusion that I took the turns too wide in lane one. I guess you really have to focus on just barely not touching the inner-most line instead of staying in the middle of the lane. I guess four laps times four turns can mean .05 miles extra if you're not careful. Spectating was lots of fun. I hope there will be more mile races someday!

  10. "Boom goes the dynamite" - LOL Love it! I've never heard of a one mile race, but I love the idea! I love speed work on the track so this would be a lot of fun for me. Great job, speedy - you kicked his butt!

    1. Ha, ha. Yes the dynamite went boom! Yes, it was actually my third mile race and there is one coming up at the Maggie Daley Park "Ribbon" downtown. Yes, you would love this distance to show off your track speed! Thanks! :)