This was my second time running the McMullen Mile and it was an incredibly fun race. The male “elite” heat was scheduled to go off at 7:30pm on a cool, sunny, and calm Thursday evening at the Nazareth College track, so I had all day to prepare.
More precisely, I had all day to obsess over the race and turn myself into a nervous wreck. I had raced a number of 1500m and mile type distances at indoor track meets over the Winter, so I’m not sure why I was so anxious. Perhaps because, aside from a few 5K races, I hadn’t done any workouts faster than tempo speed since April 14th. Even worse, I hadn’t run repetition (mile-pace) speed workouts since the last time I raced a mile on March 7. On top of this, my last few races had not gone well and I felt like I was clinging to “race form” for too long without taking some down-time. And finally, this was the first time Karyn was watching me race so I didn’t want to disappoint!
Pre-race activities were fairly standard fare. I arrived early with Karyn, chatted with Josh, glanced around to figure out who else was running, etc. Josh and I jogged for about 20 minutes on a trail behind the Nazareth campus. It was nice to race on their track, which felt very familiar because we run on it often for our workouts. Josh said something about how the warmup sometimes provides a hint as to how the race will go (i.e. if you feel light and bouncy versus heavy and flat), but other times it gives no signal whatsoever. The latter seemed true for me on this day, although I started to feel more confident once I slipped into my spikes and eased into some fast 100 meter strides.
Although we had provided seed times when we registered, they arranged us in a random order at the line. This was odd, but I didn’t feel wronged because I got to start in the fifth position, which seemed about right. I got off the line slowly but maneuvered into the middle of the pack for the first 200 meters. Steve Strelick bounded to the front and set a relatively slow pace.
We had hoped to run a fast first lap despite any games the front-runners might play, so Josh made a move to the front and I stuck to his shoulder. We came through the quarter mile in 69 seconds, which was slower than planned but still acceptable.
I felt strong and maintained pace with the three or four guys ahead. At some point, Josh dropped back several meters. There was about a three meter gap between me and the small lead group for the second lap and most of the third lap. I came through lap two in 68 seconds.
Lap three was similar. I continued to feel strong and made (what I thought was) a solid effort to push the pace (I would later find out that my effort was only enough to sustain another 69 second quarter mile). Chad Byler made a great move on the home-stretch of lap three and he leapt past me by a few meters as we came into the final lap.
The last quarter mile was a struggle. I had still felt reasonably energetic with 500 meters to go, but 100 meters later I was suddenly barely hanging on. Byler’s move past me was mildly demoralizing, and I couldn’t match his pace as the small lead group ahead was pulling away. With 200 meters to go, I heard someone coming up from behind me. I didn’t look back, but somehow, I knew it was Josh. He caught me as we rounded the last turn and rocketed past me. I tried to focus on pumping my arms faster with the hope that my legs would follow, but they simply had nothing left. This was all I could do to avoid losing my form completely through the finish.
I completed the last lap in 69 seconds and finished the mile (1609 meters) in 4:36.96, a 4 second PR, which was very satisfying. I left it all on the track and gutted out a big personal best in the mile without any specific training for it. Plus this success it will make the next two weeks of rest and recovery much easier to get through!