Last weekend I took part in the annual 26 X 1 club challenge at the Tufts University track. The event is pretty simple: You have teams of 26 people, 1 person starts off with .2 mile run, and then 26 legs follow of 1 mile each (the initial person runs a normal mile leg later on).
This was the 4th time I have taken on a 1 mile race. The 1st two were in high school. One at the end of my sophomore year in 1997 (5:15) and then again in the middle of my senior year in 1999 (5:13). In those days, my workouts were about 90% speed work and I was lucky if I ever made it to 20 miles in a week. Also in those days asthma medication was not what it is now and any time I ran an 800 or longer hard, my recovery was well over a week.
Jumping back to present, my 3rd attempt at the mile was on Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter Square last summer. Thought I did have a reasonable mix of speed work and distance last year, I was functioning on about 4-5 hours of sleep a night as Neil had not found his rhythm yet. I completed that event, "The Mass Ave Mile" in 5:16.
When I decided to join in the fun for the team event I figured, what the hell, I'll give it what I got, but I really didn't have the time or want to train directly for a mile. Trying to stay on "the road to 50", I figured an onslaught of hill work was probably good enough. None the less, based on previous performance I guessed I could get down to around 5:15, a number which would put me on the faster side of the SRR B team, or Jesse would later name it "Dynamite with a cut-table wick" (Originally the 3 teams were named SRR Rock, Paper, and Scissors).
The event started at 8am and it was reasonable cool out (70's without too much humidity). I was leg 21 so I had a little while before the baton would get to me. After a couple miles of warming up and getting my legs back under me I helped out timing and keeping track of our runners. One of the nice benefits of a events like this is getting to know team members and learn a few more names (SRR is a large team).
I was having a pretty good time and seeing the adrenaline boost in a few people's eyes after finishing their run and being happy with their result. It was also fun to see what type of speed people have. Coming from a track and soccer background, I have always taken my speed for granted. It is funny to look back to when I was a runner in high school and thought the mile was crazy long and now I look at it from the exact opposite perspective.
Sometime around 9:45 it started to get closer to my leg so I put in a few more easy laps with some 60-70 meter pick ups to make sure the legs were loose. As I was waiting for Tim to come down the final straight away with the baton I became slightly anxious. I really don't get overly stressed about races anymore and I think it primarily has to do with the fact that I know it will be a little while before I really start hurting. With a 1 mile race, I figured I was going to be hurting somewhere around the 1 lap point.
As I took the baton and started my watch I just thought, what the hell, lets see what happens. I hit the 200 meter point in 37 seconds and the 1 lap point in 75, right on 5 min pace. I tried to hold a solid pace for the 2nd lap, but ended up slacking some and hitting the half mile mark in 2:37.
On the 3rd lap I tried to really pick it up on the back stretch when I had the wind at my back, but tone it back down as I finished the lap into the wind. After 3 laps I was at 3:58, but not feeling overly bad, so I picked it up hard right at the beginning of the lap. At this point I made a pact with myself, that if I could put in a good last lap, then I could go lay down in the infield, something I did after nearly every race in high school. With 200 to go I was hurting, but felt my speed was still alright. The final straight away was into the wind but I muscled though it coming into the finish pretty hard.
Looking back at the race, I kind of laugh. Minimal speed work (1 track workout in the last 3 months), lots of hills, and lots of mileage. This is the 2nd PR in the last 5 weeks, the other at the opposite end of the spectrum, a 50K mud run. Interesting note: I ran 60 miles total during both PR weeks. I think tapering may now be a thing of my past.
The moral of the story, get better asthma medication.
Special thanks to SRR for putting on such a great race and to Jesse for herding everyone to keep the team organized and moving. Congratulations to SRR Rock for winning the event and setting a new record.
Next race is the Loon Mountain run next Sunday. This should be an interesting one as it literally goes up and down ski slopes at Loon and covers 2100' of climbing over 5.5 miles.
From there we have a little bit of a break from racing as I really increase the mileage in prep for Iceland and then Virgil.
Now if only someone can figure out how to turn the heat down outside.
Our charity this month is the National Parks Conservation Association. Amy and I truly believe that our National Parks are a gift and are happy to help support them.
I finished the month with 195 miles, just 5 short of my 200 mile goal. Click to see more.
(Arches National Park - September 2010)