One of the things I'd like to do more of this year is write - and yes, that means more blogging. I've realized that I've slacked off a bit when it comes to that lately, which is probably directly related to my lack of running and riding for the past several months. Literally, nothing to write about. Hopefully that changes for 2012.
On Sunday, I ran my first race of the 2012: the Millennium Mile. It is the first of what I hope is many races of 2012. I actually can't believe it's taken me this long to finally run the Millennium Mile.
Finally, thanks to my participation in the Millennium Running Series, I made an effort to get there. And, boy, I'm glad I did.
The atmosphere was lively and filled with anticipation. People of every age and ability swarmed around everywhere. I was suprised at how good it felt to get back into a race atmosphere.
I felt at home. Last year, I only only three events on my running/riding calendar and neither were really "typical" running events: the Boston Marathon in April, a duathlon in Rye in June and my week-long cycling tour in July. In years prior, I'd had many running races planned, and it wasn't until Sunday that I realized I'd missed the race scene - the bib pick-up, the music blasting, the crews setting up, runners randomly stretching and running around the area. Yes, it was good to be back on familiar turf.
What was totally unfamiliar to me, however, was the distance. One mile.
The funny thing was, I really had no idea how to run a mile. I know it sounds crazy, but as a person who really has only ever trained for distance events, running a mile was going to be really, really hard.
I'm trained to pace myself, to go out slow, to calculate how much is left in the tank at every mile marker. The problem with this race was that there would be only one mile-marker and by then it would be to late. (Okay - they did have markers each quarter-mile, but my distance-running brain is not equipped to deal with such small increments.) There would be no room for adjustments like I usually make in my other races.
When people asked me what finish time I was hoping for, I really had no idea how to answer. Sure, I know my "speed workouts" had me running 8-8:30's last year - but that was at the peak of my Boston Marathon training. Oh, and it was for several - sometimes five or six - miles at a time. And it wasn't downhill.
How fast could I run a mile? I didn't know. I'd never really tried.
And, truth be told, I hadn't trained a lick. The last time a "speed workout" appeared on my training log was sometime in March. And, as I've mentioned many times now, my running has really slacked off lately. I've put on too many pounds. Nothing was really adding up to an ideal mile.
So I decided to take the advice from my friend's nine-year-old, a Millennium Mile veteran. The best strategy, he said, was just to run "balls to the wall." Kind of what you'd expect from a nine-year-old, right?
But, hey, it was better than any other advice I'd gotten and I didn't have any training to back me up, so I went with it.
I was able to meet up with some friends (I was suprirsed at how many people I bumped into at the race!) for the start. Soon enough, the starting gun (actually, airhorn) sounded and we were off. The crowd at the beginning was tight. It was hard to find a spot and, in the first several steps before the starting mat, it was impossible to do anything but walk.
I tried my best to find a clear shot, knowing that every second counts in a mile-long race. Again, there would be no miles later in the race to make up for lost time.
Then I just ran. And ran. I hit the quarter-mile sign and felt surprisingly tired and winded. Geesh, it was only a quarter mile! I'd left my Garmin at home, half on purpose and half because the battery wasn't charged, so I really had no sense of my pace. Really, if you would asked me whether I was running a 10-minute-mile or an 8-minute-mile at that point, I wouldn't have been able to tell you.
The finish line came into view rather quickly, and I noticed the minutes still ticking in the 7-s. Could I finish this thing in under 8 minutes? Given my current physical fitness and lack of running, I'd take a sub-8 as a huge victory - even if it was downhill and the race winners were posting sub-4s.
As I crossed the mat, the clocked ticked over the 8-minute mark. I was incredibly winded and the cool air burned my lungs. Yes, folks, running a mile is hard.
I still wasn't sure if I'd broken 8-minutes, despite the fact that, logically, I knew it took me several seconds to cross the starting line after the airhorn sounded. We waited around the school's gymnasium for the official results and after about an hour after the race, decided we'd just check online. (As someone who plans events, I could tell this one - at least from the timing standpoint - wasn't going as planned. No reason why it should take an hour for results of a one-mile, chip-timed race unless something had gone awry.)
Turns out it took me more than 20 seconds to cross. My official time was 7:37 - which for me is a super-fast time. Granted, the entire race is downhill, so it's not really an accurate reflection of my "real" mile time. But I'll take it.
Yep, I ran a 7:37. Not a bad way to start the year. And it give me something to shoot for - or way under - for July's one-mile series race.