Saturday, June 11, 2016

Grim Mile 2016 Race Recap

Racing a mile is fun. The gun sounds and then its a mad dash for 5 minutes. It's extra fun to race a mile on a track. The crowd can watch and cheer the entire race without leaving their seats. For me it's the "official" way to race a mile. Just ask Roger Bannister!

This was the second time I've raced a mile this year and the second time I've raced the Grim Mile. In the 2015 version, I won my age group. This year, I would be drafted into competing in the elite race!

After a two mile hot shakeout run in my neighborhood (temps were already in the 80s). I drove five miles due west of my house and arrived at the Luther North High School track where there was a nice shady parking spot facing the track. I went in the high school's gym and got my bib and race shirt (no singlet like last year). They told me that instead of the age group race they wanted me to race in the elite division race! So, I figured why not? Maybe I would get swept up with the fast crowd which would help my chances for a PR. Anyway, I went outside where they were holding the heats for kids and teenagers, giving free massages and serving up free pancakes and sausage at the concession stand. 
Waiting at the concession stand!
Just like last year, this was a casual race which is more than just a little reminiscent of a high school track meet where the only distance is 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 had only to do exactly four laps. 

Just before my heat, I did a few pickups and ran an additional half mile. I got pretty hot doing so, so I went over and sat in the shade for a few minutes to try and cool down.

Finally around 10:45, it was time for the elite race!

The start line!
According to McMillan's calculator, based on my 10k time from last weekend, I was in 5:07 shape, but what fun is a 5:07? My goal instead would be a 4:59! So, in order to hit that number I planned my quarter mile splits to be:

1:18, 1:16, 1:14 and 1:12

If all went according to this plan, it would hopefully result in a sub-5:00 mile. I figured if I could hold back the first quarter mile I would have enough energy to kick my way to a 4:59.

Once at the start line, I mentioned to one of the other two runners, that I wanted to go for a 4:59 which I'd never done before. So he got one of his friends to act as a "rabbit" for me. I told him I was looking for a 1:18 first quarter and he said he would try for around that time.

They actually used a horn this year (instead of a starting gun like last year) and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  My rabbit and the two other guys shot out of the gate super fast. I knew that a full out sprint at this point was foolish, but I kinda, just slightly, got sucked in with them. Hey, how many times am I going to have my own personal rabbit? About halfway around the track, I started feeling winded, which was not a good sign that early in the race. So, I knew I needed to apply the brakes and started to slow and had watch the other three fade into the distance up ahead. 1:14.7 (4:59/mile pace).
Lap 1
Mile 0.50: I don't know if it was my too fast first lap, the heat or the fact I was running my 83rd mile of the week, but I felt like I was straining to get any leg turnover. I was still in last place. 1:20.6 (5:22/mile pace).
Lap 2
Mile 0.75: I felt like I was settling down and my legs came back to me a little. The guy in front of me was starting to fade, so I made my move to pass him and by the end of the third lap I had 10 meters on him. 1:19.8 (5:20/mile pace).
Lap 3
Mile 1.0: I finally found my second wind, but it was too little too late for a sub-5. I really didn't feel too much pain this mile, so maybe I had held back too much in the previous quarter mile? I turned on the jets and was done!  1:12.7 (4:54/mile).
Lap 4
Official Finish Time: 5:08
Official Pace: 5:08/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:08/mile
1/2 mile splits: 2:35.3 and 2:32.5.

Place Overall: 2nd out of 3

This was only my second track mile - but it's still a PR! My pacing was pretty spot on for my goal, although I wish I could have run the first two laps just a little more slowly. I still negative split the race, which is hard to do given the initial adrenaline rush in a short race like this. I was only one second from McMillan's predicted time (5:07). Those tables are scary accurate when it comes to shorter distances!

Post Race:
There was a short awards ceremony where I got my second place medal. Mr. Grim said that they'd be back next year and to tell your friends. So, I'm telling you to please try this race out next year! A mile race on a track may be my favorite distance next to the racing a marathon. I guess those two distances are at two different ends of the racing spectrum and that's maybe why I like them both. The marathon is a test of endurance with a little bit of speed and the mile is a test of speed with a little bit of endurance.

Next Up:
PR attempt Chicago Rock n' Roll Half next month.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Run for the Animals 10k - 2016 Race Recap

As I mentioned in my previous post - after putting in a monthly and weekly PDR prior to this year's Run for the Animals - I didn't want to just best my 10k PR (<38:10).

I wanted to demolish it. 

However, in order to demolish anything I needed to get out of bed and get ready to race! After a 5 a.m. shakeout run of two miles in the city, I jumped in my car and headed out to the 'burbs. My dad had picked up my bib along with his bib (for the 5k) earlier in the week, so I met up with him at his house, put on said bib, and we headed over to the race in downtown Wheaton. After reaching the start area, I went for a half mile warmup with some striders. This was going to be the hottest, most humid race of the year - and I was starting to sweat, which is not a good sign, but I have felt hotter prior to other races.

My strategy was to negative split by running two six minute miles then gradually pick-up the pace and see what I had left after the mile two marker.

The national anthem was sung and we were off!

The Race
Mile 1: This was a dual 5k and 10k, so per usual, I had to relax and let the hordes sprint by me at sub 5 minute pace over the first 200 yards and then watch as a lot of them fell back behind me. Right before the mile "1" marker, a guy in my age group tried to make a move to pass me. As he came up alongside me, I could hear that his breathing was labored and yet mine was barely audible. I knew he was in trouble, but I still couldn't in good conscience let him pass me. I sped up slightly and I didn't see (or hear) him again until the race was over. 5:57/mile.

Mile 2: I started catching up to people I had seen way down the road earlier. 5:58/mile.

Mile 3: Things started to really spread out and then suddenly the 5k and 10k course split and I was running behind only one guy. 5:57/mile.

Mile 4: I passed that guy and there seemed to be a big gap between me and the next guy. So, I had to really focus on the arrows painted on the road to make sure I didn't make a wrong turn. Also, it was getting hot. When I grabbed water I'd take a sip, then splash the rest on my face for some brief relief. 5:54/mile.

Mile 5: The wind was entirely to my back this mile and it shows in my split. As we made the turn around a lake, I sped by the final runner that I would pass in the race. 5:50/mile.

Mile 6: The tailwind became a headwind, which offered relief from the heat, but also was working against my tiring legs. I knew I had a PR in the bag, but could sense I was slowing down and was afraid that it would result in a somewhat ugly positive split. I ignored my watch and tried to muster any speed that was left in my legs. I hate slowing down near the end of races! 6:03/mile.

Mile 6.21: Down the homestretch I could feel the burn in my lungs and my legs. It's no wonder - I have never held a sub-6:00 average pace over six miles! Soon enough I was almost at the finish line and glanced over at the race clock to see my time, but the clock was turned off for some reason. I stopped my watch and was done.  5:39/mile.
Finishing strong into the wind (see the flag on the left)!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 36:49.393. Official pace: 5:56/mile
  • Overall Place: 12th out of 671
  • Age Place: 3rd out of 40 (another CARA race podium)
  • Fifth PR in a row in five different distances this year
  • Beat my PR by 1 minute and 20 seconds = PR demolished!
  • Mission accomplished!
Soaking up the PR
I grabbed a cup of water and looked down at my watch to see what my finishing time was since the race clock at the finish line was blank. I saw that the first two numbers on my watch read "36" and instead of drinking my water I threw it up in the air for joy. One of the volunteers who saw me do this said to me, "PR?" and I said "Yes! Big time!" and she congratulated me. Then I gleefully skipped over to the results tent to get my results. After standing in line for 5 minutes, the results official told me that the 10k results weren't ready. When I went finally got the results printed out 10 minutes later, the piece of paper said I ran a 41:07!! I could see other people staring incredulously at their results and after speaking with them, they said their results were also wrong. I was not happy since I had actually PR'd and wanted the official results to reflect my real time. It made me feel slightly better that at least I wasn't the only one with incorrect results.

Since there was nothing I could do about my official time at the moment, I headed over to run the kids' 1/2 mile race with my niece and nephew. I ran most of it with my nephew who shot out fast and then had to slow way down. I tried not to coach him too much, but when he made a move (jokingly) to run on the grass to take a shortcut, I told him that I would 100x rather have him walk than to cut the course short. After he finished, I turned around and ran back to run with my niece and dad who were just finishing up. The crowd support was great for the kids and they each got a medal and a cool neon colored shirt.
Three generations of runners (10k, 5k and 1/2 milers)
We all went to breakfast at a nearby diner. After that I walked back to the post-race area to check my results and saw that they had finally posted my correct time on the results wall. There must have been a big computer snafu and hopefully they can get it straightened out by the next race. Anyway, before leaving downtown Wheaton, we all walked over to say hi to my sister's hair stylist Alicia - who is a reader of my blog and who I also see running with her training group on the Lakefront Trail from time to time!

Race Takeaway:
Despite the heat, I was able to hold pace, which bodes well for my half marathon PR attempt in July. Although the temps at that race figure to be a lot hotter, I have six additional weeks to acclimate to the heat.

Next up:
Grim Mile!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Run For The Animals 10k: Pre-Race Thoughts

I'm racing the Run for the Animals 10k in Wheaton on Saturday. My history with 10ks has been an up and down experience. At my first 10k ever, I ran a poorly executed 40:10 in the heat and ended up falling down at the finish line and needing assistance over to a fence where I got sick!  I then set an arbitrary goal of breaking 40 minutes by the time I turned 40. That did not happen - as injury from over-training got the best of me. In fact I didn't break 40 minutes in a 10k until I was past 40 when I ran a 38:10. However, I haven't been back below 39:00 in eight subsequent attempts.

Due to poor pacing decisions, my first dozen 10k times look like a roller coaster on a graph. Now that I'm older and just a little wiser, they've leveled off to around 40 minutes since my PR six years ago:

My 10k times
On Saturday I'll step up to the line to attempt not only to break that PR, but to hopefully demolish it. I just need to pick the right pace given the temperatures and how I'm feeling that morning. My expectations are high because it's been a banner year in the "PR department" with one each in the 5k, 8k, 10 mile, and marathon. I've put a lot of effort into training for this race with a 91 mile weekly PDR last week and a monthly PDR of 366 miles in May. So I'm either totally primed for success or will be trying to coax some non-existent speed out of tired legs!
Running along the lake

I guess I'll see what happens on Saturday!