As I mentioned previously, I raced in the Congress Avenue Mile last Saturday. As the name suggests, it’s a one-mile race down …. Congress Avenue. I say “down” and I literally mean “down”, as the course is nearly all downhill, which makes for some really fast times. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but in the back of my mind I had aspirations of running a sub 5:00 minute mile (if you know me, you know how completely far-fetched that sounds as of about a year ago; I was in the 8 minute range, and that was a drastic improvement over several years ago.) Sure, as an 18-year old college freshman I ran a 6:15 mile on a track, but that was 17 years ago, and up until last November I probably never exceeded an 8 minute pace in various 5Ks and whatnot.
So where did these sub-5 dreams come from? It’s hard to change one’s perception of oneself and I’ve always thought of myself as slow (and fat, but that’s another story). But last November I joined Gilbert’s Gazelles Training Group and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love it, and it’s made me fast(er). I went from an 8 minute miler to a 6 minute miler almost immediately. I started running mile repeats (run a mile, rest 2 minutes, run a mile, rest 2 minutes, etc.) in 6:20. I ran a Half-Marathon at a 7:10 pace, a 10K at 6:59. So I was beginning to think I might be fast, but I also had years of “not-fast” thinking to overcome.
At the Gazelles Thursday workout, 2 days before the race, Gilbert pulled out the 6 of us who were going to do the race and had us do a special workout (the rest of the group was doing 1000 meter intervals). We were to run one 800 at race pace, rest 5 minutes, run one 400 at race pace, then finish with 200s, working on butt kick and high knee. I did the 800 in 2:30 and the 400 in 68 seconds. If I could keep up that 800 pace for the mile, I’d come in right at 5 minutes. I’d heard that the downhill course could shave up to 20 seconds off your time, but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to keep that 800 pace for a mile, so I split the difference and thought “Well, if I have the race of my life, can keep up the pace, get the downhill working for me, get the adreneline flowing, find a pacesetter to run with, I just might break 5:00 minutes.” Yeah, a lot of ifs, but a boy’s gotta dream, right.
Saturday, race day, my heat didn’t go until 9:30. I signed up for the 5:00-5:59 pace heat, got there about 45 minutes early and had a lot of nervous energy to burn off. I had really wanted to do well, and had been thinking about this race all week.
Come start time I got in the second row of runners, thinking I would stay on someone’s hip and not go out too fast. But within 5 strides after the horn sounded, I was out front. I told myself all week not to do this, but here I was going out like a rabbit. But I felt good, and it was downhill, and I was racing, and …. I should have known better.
I think I led for the first quarter mile or so and probably did that first quarter in 60 seconds….way, way too fast. I was kind of panicking. The TV truck (oh, did I mention this would be on TV??) was right in my face, and I was trying to look good, but I was already starting to feel it. Someone passed me around 600 meters, and by the 1/2 mile point I knew I was toast. I did that first 800 in 2:20 and I was dying as more and more people passed me. I shudder now to think of how ridiculous it will look on TV.
I hit the 3/4 mile mark in about 3:50 I think. Who knows though, I was delerious, and my whole body ached, from my teeth (seriously) to my toes. I knew I would never do that last 400 in 70 seconds and that my sub-5:00 mile was way out of reach, so I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I kind of gave up. I had a small spurt for about 100 yards where I tried to kick home, but I just had nothing left. I fairly jogged to the finish line.
Now here’s where it gets a bit strange. I clearly saw 5:11 on the clock as I finished, and Jessica ran up to me afterwards and said “5:11! great job” so she saw the same thing. But when I looked at my results they say 5:19. That had to be wrong I thought, two otherwise normal adults saw the same time. We saw 5:11. Surely the pictures will prove us right. But alas, it is not to be, the photos clearly show me finishing at 5:19. Ah well, 5:19, 5:11, 4:59 …. what’s 20 seconds anyway? ;)
“Next year,” my coach said after the race, “four-thirty.”
So there you have it, my dorky, overly descriptive recounting of a one mile race. It took longer to type than to run. Time to move on and look foward for the CapTexTri this weekend.