I haven’t been running much but aimed for 9 “miles” (6:40 pace/1600, 1:40 pace/400) for the TVR 1hour classic. I hit it (pretty precisely; to paraphrase Stephen Colbert: Niemeyer, it’s German, bitch) and just a little over. Thanks to Greg Crowther for being the kind of visible, competent runner to do things like this and make shlubs like me try, too, and thanks especially to Katie for her support and Elizabeth for some day forgiving me for being the reason she spent an hour of her life before her 2 month birthday hanging around a track. Maybe next year I can aim for 16,000?
This year I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend Greg Crowther’s run for the Titus Van Rijn 1-hour classic. I didn’t make it, but I was motivated enough to take part myself. So with the road to hell being paved with good intentions, I waited until flag day to finally drag myself to the track at Lower Woodland Park, near Green Lake and I put in my hour.
I haven’t been training much (my first daughter was born just over 6 weeks before race day) and I initially thought “OK, I’ll aim for 30 minutes at an 8:00 pace and take it down to 7:30 and see how I’m feeling.” This would have been 7.75 “metric miles.” I’m no contender for anything in any local races but it turns out I’m not that out of shape, nor am I that unambitious, so instead I decided to just aim for 9 metric miles.
“What’s a metric mile?” Most tracks are 400m and 4 laps on a track is 1600m. A mile is slightly longer than this (1609m) but for this I set my goals laps – so “metric miles.”
So, flag day (the deadline by which people participating in TVR must complete their runs) rolled around and after work Katie agreed she would come with the baby and they would support me on the event. Fortunately, most people have better things to do on a Friday night than run around a track for an hour, so almost no one was there for my 36 laps. It might make some sense to warm up a little for a distance this short, but I didn’t really, and after a quarter lap jog back and forth, I started my watch.
My target distance comes out to 6:40 pace per 1600 and 1:40 per lap, 0:50 per 200. This is nice and easy to calculate and check splits many times throughout the hour. I’ve only been on a track two or three times in the past 2 months, but my first quarter split was right on and basically all my miles were, too.
The first mile felt a little more challenging than it probably should have, but I started getting into a groove shortly after that. I’d left an Ultimate Direction gel flask on one of the benches with a little water and one Gu in it and I grabbed that for a sip after I cleared mile 3. Unsurprisingly, this was actually super refreshing.
The middle third was when things started to feel a little challenging. Katie is the best support anyone could ask for, but Elizabeth was getting restless and on every lap at least 50m before I got to them, I could hear her starting to cry a little. You might think “the sound of my crying baby might really get a fire burning in me and help me knock out some solid splits!” but you would probably be wrong. It makes you want to quit and want to help your baby. At least that’s how it made me feel and how I bet it would make most parents feel. So I asked if she could take the baby on a stroll (the vibration of our new – and excellent! – Bob Revolution knocks her out) and got a few laps where I could just focus a little more.
The remainder of the event was pretty typical. It was hard, it got harder, I disassociated a little, focused on my breathing a little, focused on my form a little, thought about the event happening at the same time in Iowa City for my cousin that I was missing, and before I knew it, I was in the 7th mile – the last third. At this point I was pretty sure I would make it but still wanted to quit pretty badly. All of my miles had been very close, but I was afraid I was losing a couple seconds in the aggregate (I was watching the splits and if I hit 6:40.8 for 6 miles, I would have almost 5 seconds to make up if I wanted to get my target). I grabbed my gel flask and drank the last two sips as I headed toward the home stretch (meaning “remaining 12 laps”).
Mile 7 was tough and 8 was tougher, but the weather was cooling. As I started the last mile, I looked at my cumulative time on my watch: 53:26. This means my last mile would need to be 6:34 which isn’t crazy at all, but definitely let me know that I would need to push to make it. And I wanted to quit – blah blah blah the same things every runner says – however here it was a little different because this isn’t a race, there wasn’t (really) an audience (OK, Katie understands this a lot better than I and she would know if I blew it or not), and I haven’t been training at all. But I thought of a couple things: first, I was 90% of the way done and now is not the time to throw in the towel. Joe Gray said something similar to that in a recent interview I read – how it’s not until things start getting challenging and you see how you deal with it that you really start to understand what you’re made of. And, also, my cousin who I felt I was – if only in some personal and ceremonial sense – running for. So I plowed through, crossed the 9 mile line with time to spare, started to stop, heard Katie yell “Go all the way through!” and picked it up a little to run until the full hour was complete, adding 33 meters on to my target.
Ultimately, races are tests of mental and physical fitness and they shouldn’t be that different from workouts. The line between race and workout is certainly a lot thinner with the TVR 1-hour run, but it adds a new, interesting dimension on all of that and I’m very glad I participated. I’m also super happy I was able to pull off that time because it wasn’t clear that I should be able to, given my training the last months with the baby, so I feel great about that, too. And of course I’m incredibly lucky to have a good support crew – including one of the runners I respect most.
The event doesn’t end on the track, though. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to indulge in a black cherry soda so before the night was over I had to find, and drink, some of that, too.
Splits – Friday 6/14/2013, Lower Woodland Track, Green Lake, WA. Sunny+warmish at start (~7:20) to overcast+coolish by finish (~8:20PM)
- 6:40.49 (53:26.93)
- 6:33.98 (last 433m)