UPC at 5th Avenue Mile
I think it’s important to set goals. I always have a short-list of goals that I keep track of, I have a list of 5-year goals which I work toward with the long-view of time, a list of 1-year goals that I hope to accomplish that year, and I keep a list of short term goals, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-months or less. My 1-mile race was a 3-month goal, which I officially started training for on June 10th (if you care to, you can find my first Workout and Diet post on the subject on that day). So I’ve been training for my 1-mile race for 3 months. 3 whole months of focused, dedicated training.
The weather was absolutely perfect!
If you’re going to be doing a performance race outdoors, you want it to be a low-wind, mildly chilly day with the sun shining. You need the air temperature to be low enough that you have no real fear of performance loss because of heat. Obviously, you need it to be warm enough so that you have no fear of performance loss due to cold… The two should work together, right?
Well, the weather was exactly what you would hope for! It was in the mid 60s with a light side wind. The wind was just enough so that you would feel the cooling effect on your face, but not enough that there would be any performance loss due to it. The sun was shining, and the street was lined with crowds of screaming fans. It was great!
The race went off without a hitch!
The coral for the 5th Avenue Mile fills up fast, and since there’s no time-based corals, it’s important to get there early enough that you’re not tripping over anyone once the race starts. Mostly people are polite enough to line up more-or-less where they should be relative to the speed of the pack. After all, no one wants to have people running in to them from behind. And no one wants to be tripping over the slower guy in front of them. But there are always a few people who are new to the race, or for some reason chose to line up on the line to run a 7:30 mile pace. And they’ll wish they hadn’t done that after the race is over. There’s nothing worse than being passed by hundreds of people in the first 100 yards…
I was not early. Fortunately, the people in the middle and back of the coral were in a “giving” mood of sorts, and made way for me to move to the front. Again, it’s no fun being passed like you’re not moving. And I knew that I shouldn’t be in the back of the pack – that would cause me a lot of extra work, and the people in front of me wouldn’t gain anything by being there. I worked my way up to near the front of the line where I was closer to people who would be running my speed, then spent a bit of time doing some deep breathing, and a bit of hopping about to warm up my muscles.
As the starting gun went off, I felt that long-familiar surge of adrenaline. It’s exciting to line up at the starting line. It’s exciting to be near the front of the pack, and to know that I’m going to perform at that level. And it’s exciting to be surrounded by a bunch of people who are as fast, or faster, then I am! I held back just enough, keeping myself to the pace that I was looking to hit.
The first quarter mile of the race is a downhill stretch, very mild. It’s misleading, and can set people up for a really painful second quarter mile. I knew this, since I’ve done this race in each of the past 4 years, and am well familiar with the course. I kept to my pace, hoping that the mild downhill would help me store some energy for the rest of the race, while letting me be right on pace. I crossed the first Quarter Mile marker with a 73 second split.
“Yes! Right on pace!” I thought, smiling.
I still felt pretty good, and I was right on with my first split. Not too fast is definitely important when you’re going for a personal best!
The second quarter is the toughest quarter mile of any mile course anywhere! Obviously, someone could set up a 1-mile race on a 15% grade hill somewhere, but you know what I mean. In terms of a hill, it’s not that steep, and it’s not that long. In terms of a 1-mile race pace, any uphill is a killer, and a 1/4 mile of it is really rough!
I came in to the hill feeling like I was in control. My legs felt pretty good. I hadn’t started to lose my breath yet. All told, I was confident. And then the hill really settled in. In short order, the hill had me wheezing for breath, I was getting passed on both sides, and my legs were burning.
“Woah!” I said to myself, wondering what was going on. This was not the feeling I was hoping to have had. I expected to lose some time on the hill – maybe even a lot of time. What I didn’t expect was to be forcibly slowed down to a 6-minute pace, and complete that quarter mile in 90 seconds. It was brutal!
I crossed the half-mile marker feeling like I had just completed my third 800 hill sprint on an 800-hills day! There is a short space of flat ground at the top of the hill, and I was actually stumbling slightly as I came across it. My 6-minute pace almost felt like I couldn’t even manage to hold that up for the rest of the race!!
Fortunately, the 3rd quarter mile is a downhill again, and it allowed me to cruise a bit and get some oxygen back in to my muscles. I know what I wanted to be doing there: I wanted to be surging forward with a final-800 in mind. I wanted to be tapping in to my speed, after powering up the hill, and flying down the backside. But I wasn’t anywhere near there…
I crossed the Final Quarter Mile marker with a 3rd split of 86 seconds. That was more than 10 seconds slower than I’d been hoping for. That hill had really eaten me up, chewed me thoroughly, and spit me out! But I was still in the race, and there was still a chance that I could beat my time from the previous year, though arriving anywhere near my goal time would be impossible at this point. It was theoretically possible to recover from the 90-second split on my previous 1/4, but there was no way to recover from the pounding that the hill gave me in making that 90-second split! I was hurting.
I reached deep, looking for any last reserves that I might have. I was looking for some strength that I could dredge up from my training, some fortitude that I could lean on to crush this final 1/4 mile in good form. And I found some. Just a bit, but some. Enough.
As I neared the finish-chute, and the orange cones directed me and my fellow racers to funnel in to the finish line, I knew that I was coming down on my final kick to make a new Personal Record. Perhaps it wouldn’t be the stunning record that I was looking for, a new major milestone to crow with excitement. But there was still a PR in there, somewhere. So I reached down a dug, even deeper, to find something for myself.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 5:28, exactly 2 seconds faster than my race the year before. It’s a PR!!
And no one could claim that I didn’t give it my all. I stumbled through the crowds, working my way over to where my wife and parents were waiting with excited faces to see what my results would be. They all knew that I’d been working toward this for months, and were as excited as I was to see my results.
Another race done.