track is back

So, remember that time I raced a road mile? Apparently I wasn’t quite done with the speedy stuff. Despite almost bailing on the idea due to feeling a little burnt out, I biked over to a track last Tuesday night to participate in an all-comer track meet. I had watched the meet last summer from the sidelines, due to my frustrating injury. This year, I am on a mission to replace all the memories of those summer races spent wishing I could run with new ones of, well, actually running. And attempting to run well. My main event of the evening was the 3k, and I figured I would do the 800 too to get more of my money’s worth…why not.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Let me give a brief history of the 3k, in the context of my personal running career. In high school, I didn’t race the 3k, but rather the 3200. I can’t even count how many 3200s I have raced, between dual meets, conference meets, county meets, and state sectional meets. I’ve raced the 3200 a lot, both indoors and outdoors. My PR is 11:53, from a scrimmage held two days after what was supposed to be my time to shine in the conference meet, pulling out my first sub-12 despite doubting coaches. I was never fresh for a 3200 (I always raced the 1600 beforehand, and my PR was 12:09 from a meet when I raced fresh indoors), so I knew I had it in me to do it if it was my sole event. A thunderstorm minutes before the race was scheduled halted my plans, and so I angrily gutted it out at this little scrimmage instead. That season (spring 2007) was my last [pretty much] entirely healthy season until…2013. I got back into the 12:20s after only a month of running the next year after a stress fracture, but I never really had time to train for a PR again unfortunately. In college, we would run a 3200 time trial the second day of preseason, and again, always coming off of a post-stress-fracture summer buildup, I’d run in the 12:50s and be satisfied. Indoors, the 3k was my main event, but there was only one season when I got to race it multiple times. I was always very unhappy with my results – I’d usually run 11:50-something. My official best time for 3k was 11:48 indoors (also not happy with that, as I expected to be running that kind of time for two miles).

So, I showed up to the meet Tuesday not knowing what to expect. I knew I was in shape to get a 3k PR. I didn’t expect to get a 3200 equivalent 3k PR, if that makes any sense – just because I was only two months out from a marathon and wasn’t training specifically for the event. I should mention it was ninety degrees and sunny, and the track was black….I had some chest pains warming up, and honestly expected to tank the race due to that. I also gave up on trying to find my hardly worn track spikes, so I wore flats. Having awoken at 4:45am, I had wanted caffeine but admittedly had it too late in the day, causing the distress. Oops. I know better. I got on the line anyway and hoped for the best. A lot of fast runners ended up showing up, so they took it out fast! My first lap was way faster than I planned, about 84 seconds, but at least that was what I used to do in high school 3200s….I was still under 6-minute pace at 800m, and my mile was 6:03ish. I was surprised how good I felt: the caffeine-induced chest pain was unnoticeable now which never happens (it always gets worse the faster I run), and my legs were not nearly as tired as I expected them to be after biking around all day. I could tell I was dehydrated, but a 3k race is hardly cause for concern, especially since I was over halfway through it. I picked it up with about 600m to go, and gave it all I had the last 200m. My official time was 11:24.0, satisfying my unspoken goal of sub-11:30. While one of my first thoughts was that I would have been faster on the day of the College Ave Mile, because of all the unfavorable circumstances of this particular day, I was happy with my time and the way I felt throughout. Now if only I had ran that time during indoor conferences in college…better late than never I suppose.

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Oh, so then I ran an 800 too. That was sort of laughable, and I didn’t really prepare too well for it (mostly because the chest tightness/acid reflux returned after the 3k…), but it was fun I guess. Anything that’s two laps can’t be too bad. I ended up running it alone, because there was a big pack of guys and one younger (really fast) girl who ran in the 2:20s, and two little kids who ran 3:30. I ran 2:40.0 even and called it a day. 800s are so short and fast…. Results from the meet are here.

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Start of the 800. The kids were intimidated I think.

Biking back home afterwards, I felt way more relaxed about, well, life, than I had before. I was in quite the funk on Monday, and I was at a loss as to what could possibly pull me out of it. Turns out throwing myself into two track races in ninety degree heat after a super long day was the answer, at least for a little while. I suppose this is proof for the argument that runners aren’t 100% sane. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though.

GOTR 5K and College Ave Mile

When I said I wanted to do crazy things this summer, I bet you didn’t think racing a mile was first on my agenda. Well, neither did I, but that was what I did on Saturday evening.

I have to back up and begin by explaining that the Girls on the Run 5k – the culminating event for the two-month program I’ve been coaching – was scheduled for Saturday morning. There was also a triathlonreally wanted to do in Staten Island that was the same day…which I didn’t realize until recently (I thought the 5k was Sunday the 8th and the tri was Sunday the 15th for some reason…turns out they were both Saturday the 7th all along). Later, I saw that the College Ave Mile was in the evening on the same day, so instead of feeling left out of the races for the weekend, I decided to take on an entirely different challenge and race the mile.

First, the Girls on the Run 5k event was great; all the girls finished and were really proud of themselves (as were their coaches).

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gotrIn the afternoon, I met up with Jen to drive up to Rutgers for the mile. I should mention that I was donning something new….My Garmin’s start/stop/up button had been working only

It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time...this was definitely taken on Friday.

It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time…this was definitely taken on Friday.

intermittently for the past week, and it eventually refused to work on Friday. So, I ended up trading it in for a new Forerunner 220. While it is similar to my old 210, I was still figuring things out, obviously. On my warmup I realized it was hot. And I was dehydrated. It was only a mile though, so I figured that wouldn’t affect me too much (and it didn’t). I entered in the “women’s emerging elite” heat. They announced everyone’s names at the start if they had pre-registered…but I had not. I finally got to meet Danielle (Foodosaurus Rex), and she was in my heat too. The gun went off about 15 minutes behind schedule but I never have a sense of time regarding races anyway so I didn’t mind. The route was two half-mile loops around a couple blocks on the Rutgers University College Ave campus. Because we were all lumped together, the first couple turns were sharp. We had to slow down for them, it was so tight.

The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.

The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.

I somehow managed to set my watch to auto-lap every quarter mile, but I’m not sure if the splits were as even as they would be for a track race. Regardless, it gave me an idea of if I was running too fast or slow, which was what I wanted. I went through the first quarter in 83-84, and the 800 in 2:53. Thinking that was slower than I wanted, I picked up the pacve a couple seconds on the next quarter mile. With 400-500 meters to go, I noticed two things: 1. A pack of a few girls ahead of me, and 2. that I still felt pretty good – not acceptable for a race of this length! So, I dug deep and passed the pack decisively. The thought that I could try to win the heat popped into my head, but there was a single girl still ahead of me, not within reasonable reach. We rounded the last corner, and I remembered the finish seemed not far at all from it on the previous loop, so I gave it all I had to the point where I actually felt like I was flying. My legs felt awesome, like they were operating on a motor that didn’t take physical effort. It was weird and great. Another hundred meters and they might have really felt it, but I can honestly say I am excited about how I felt at the finish, because I felt fast. I must have closed in about 80 seconds for the last quarter, give or take. My final time was 5:41.35 and I was second in the heat (the first girl ran 5:29). With a runner’s high to blame, I almost signed up for the mile relay (2 x 800m) at the end, but opted not to when I found out I’d have to pay extra for it. Thus concludes a short race recap of an equally short race – so easy when it’s only a mile long!

Finish photo. Again, I swear I'm not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!

Finish photo. Again, I swear I’m not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!

The elephant at the race…

As you may have noticed from the starting line photo and the meet website if you clicked the link, the event was very much dominated by a particular NJ-based club. It also attracted other clubs because it was a USATF mile championship event. I chatted with a lot of people that day and it seemed like running clubs were the primary topic of conversation. I think clubs are great, and serve as a way for post-collegiate runners of all ages to stay socially connected and compete as a team. It also can be difficult to find people to do workouts with, and I totally get that reason for joining a team. I’ve thought a lot about the idea…and ultimately, at least for right now in my life as a runner, I am satisfied with not joining a team. I personally like the freedom that comes with being non-partisan: free to do whatever run or workout I want, when I want. To choose to race certain races, or not. To wear whatever I want to for a race. To do runs with members of any club, and attend their sponsored events. I also feel like I have a lot of people I can text or something to run almost any time I feel like it, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that. Maybe I will join a running club someday, who knows. I’m not close-minded about it, but right now I am happy bouncing around and enjoying running with me and for me.

Craving speed

A couple weeks ago I did a fast and simple track workout with the Intervals group (while I just finished mentioning I am not on a club, I should mention that this group is more of an eclectic group of friends in the community that come together weekly due to a shared love of running…and if I’ve ever suggested that you come to a workout, it’s because I legitimately think you’ll have fun and want to see you!): 3200, 1600, 400. It left me a little discouraged about my current level of speed, but I guess the heat and wind gusts played a factor that day more than I realized. After a great workout the next Tuesday night and then the fast finish at the mile, I changed my mind and decided that yes, I do want to get back on the track for a little more fun. So, the plan is to jump into the last all-comers track meet this month at a nearby school (hosted by, yes, yet another club) for a 3k next Tuesday evening. I want to have fun and see what I can do.

20140612_000125If you were thinking my next post would be about the joys of being a newbie cyclist…don’t worry. That is definitely coming.