One of the things I wanted to do this summer was run some mile track races and work on my speed. Potomac Valley Track Club, a local running group, holds a series of summer track meets and I figured I would go to a bunch of them. Unfortunately, once I actually looked at the schedule I realized that most of the meets fell on weekends that I was going to be out of town. So when I heard about the mid-week DC Road Runner's track championships, I immediately added it to my calendar. As more and more CAR teammates committed, I knew it was going to be a fun event.
Since I was traveling for work earlier in the week, I didn't really think about the race until Wednesday morning. I started to get nervous as I sat at work in the afternoon and realized that I was going to have to actually try to run fast, for the first time in a while. During the warm up I told myself (and others) that the key would be to start somewhat conservatively and slowly pick up the pace. That my target time for the first lap would be right around 1:40 and then I would attempt to speed up from there.
They ended up splitting the women's open race into two heats, sub-6:00 and sub-6:30. Obviously I went with the latter. With the real speedsters in the other heat, I ended up starting in the middle of the track, right on the line. When the horn went off I cut in towards lane one and tried to settle in. I ended up somewhat near the front of the race, not with the pack of CAR ladies that I normally run with. I could see Beth slightly ahead of me, but had no idea where the rest of my teammates were.
I tried to run at what seemed, at the time, like a hard but sustainable pace. When I came around to 400 and could see the race clock, I realized that I was doing exactly what I said I didn't want to do - starting too fast. I hit 400 at 1:29 and decided that at this point I was committed and would just have to try to hold on. At some point during the second lap I caught up to Beth and we ran through the 800 together right around 3:00.
I started to struggle a bit at this point when I stressed out over the fact that I was only halfway and things were starting to hurt. In retrospect, I wonder how much seeing the pace we were running affected how the second half of the race played out. I know that I definitely need to work on my ability to suffer in races. I've never been one of those people who could push themselves to the point of throwing up and I feel like I backed down a bit in the third lap because I was afraid to hurt/die in the last lap.
Coach George was standing at the far corner of the track and yelled at us to pick up the pace because there was only a lap and a half to go. At this point I pulled slightly ahead of Beth, but she surged back pretty quickly. I stayed with her for a little while after that, but eventually she pulled ahead. I think I went through the 1200 at about 4:37 and then just tried to hold on through the last 400.
It was definitely not the last lap of my perfect race dreams. I knew I should be picking up the pace, but just couldn't seem to get my legs going any faster. With about 200 to go I got passed by two of my better paced teammates who were flying to the finish. I kicked it in the best that I could and finished in 6:14.8, a huge PR.
I don't know that I've ever actually raced a track mile, but about a year and a half ago I did a road mile in 6:59, and earlier in July I did a 6:40 during a workout. I was thrilled with the time, but not thrilled with my race execution. It worked out pretty well in the end, but I need to focus on starting races more controlled. This has long been a problem of mine in 5ks and 10ks, so I wasn't totally surprised. Negative splits are a rarity in my races.
It ended up being a great evening of races for all of my teammates, one that ended with team happy hour and margaritas. What more could you want, really?
Thanks Dash for all of the photos!