Friday, June 8, 2012

Debuting in the Mile: McMullen Mile Race

While I have done a number of time trials, I had never actually run an outdoor track race.  I say outdoor because I did have one season of indoor track in 9th grade, which was less than stellar.  By that I mean, my 1500 PR was 7:25, and I repeatedly finished last in the races.  I would say I was due for a fresh start.  Incidentally, I bumped into my old gym teacher yesterday before the race, and we were having a laugh, because I never demonstrated any indication in middle school/high school gym that I had any semblance of talent as a runner.  Things have changed a little!

Heather is on the left, I am in the blue top
The McMullen Mile is in honor of a local elite runner, Charlie McMullen, who ran sub 4 in the mile in the 70s and 2:15 in the marathon.  It was at Nazareth College, and it was very cool to actually run in a stadium.  There were seven heats, and I was actually seeded in the elite women's heat (sub 6), which felt very cool.  I mean, how often does that happen?  Originally, there only 4 women listed in it, included me and a friend of mine from the area (and RWOL Boston Forum Friend).  So, we were actually fairly hopeful - maybe we could finish in the top 3 (which had prize money).  We were the second to last heat, which I was happy about, because it gave us the chance to watch a few races and let the sun go down a little (it was an evening race).  I watched the first two heats, so I could get a handle on how the race was going to be structured.  I then did my usual 2.5 mile warm up, and it felt good to finally get the legs moving, and the weather had cooled down a little.  Got back to watch one or two more heats, and then we were called to get our numbers (not quite a bib, but a little number that we stuck on our hips).  I wish they had safety pins, because I could tell that it might fall off, oh well.  So, as I said, there only four of us who had pre-registered, but there were 4 more women added to our heat: the GVH runners.  The Genesee Valley Harriers is a local Olympic development team that you have to qualify for (i.e 18:58 5k to be on the B team, 18:05 for the A team), and they co-sponsored the race.  So, once 3 girls with the GVH uniforms showed up, Heather and I both knew that winning or placing was not a possibility - we just ad to hang on.  I was number 6, Heather, number 7.  Here we are before the call to the start, and then this is the entire field.
So many fast GVH girls!
And then the gun (an actual gun, not a siren - and that is loud!) was off.  Immediately, the field spread out.  These girls were not messing around.  Bu the nice thing was that we had a lot of room - no one was crowded for space.  I tucked behind Heather for a little bit, then decided I was going to go a little faster.  I went through the first lap in 1:25, which was perfect.  The other girls were really far in front, and so it felt more like a time trial than a race.  I knew I could not catch anyone, so I just had to focus on hanging on and running for my goal time.  2:52 for halfway, and I was feeling pretty good.  I didn't die too much in the third lap, but it definitely felt hard to move/kick in the final lap.  Plus, the winner and some of the other girls had finished by the time I came up on the last 100m, so it was harder to motivate.  But I kept going and just resolved to get through this...
Couple of strides away from the finish
An official sub 6 race and a new PR!  My lungs were burning after for a bit, and we were all just trying to catch our breath.  It was not the sub 5:50 I was hoping for, but a PR all the same.  I had knocked 2 seconds off from my time trial in early May, and had successfully had my first outdoor track race and did not get lapped.  And, I got to run in the elite, seeded field of a race, a very cool opportunity.  When you think about the Olympic women who can run 5:15s for 26.2 miles, it is a bit humbling and mid-boggling.  But for a night, I got to be in the fast heat, and by going under 6, I showed that I deserved to be in that one - it was not a miscalculation, it was right.  Since there were a bunch of heats, and some people ran faster in the slower heats than predicted, it took a while for them to tabulate the results for the age group awards.  I came in 3rd for my age group, so I got a bronze medal.  I need to thank Heather (who won her category) for this, because the race officials had only listed the top 2 in my category.  She actually went to the officials on my behalf and made sure that I got my medal too.  Who says running isn't a team effort?  She did a great job herself, and ran a 5:58 while in the process of training for a 50 miler.  All in all, it was a very good night.
I texted Sarah, and she was pleased with how it went.  She also added, "The mile is a race that feels less crazy the more you do it."  And that's true - it did just feel crazy.  So, maybe some summer I will do a few mile races and get more experience in it.
At home with my new medal.  Wrists are glowing
from the safety bracelets I wore on my cooldown
once it got dark.  They almost look like
Wonder Woman bracelets - maybe that's
this year's Halloween costume?
My parents were at the race, which was cool, since normally I am in DC for my races.  They are so supportive and great.  They go to all of my Rochester races, and have also traveled to DC/Boston for my marathons.  But, as we were recalling before the race, this is only the second track race they've ever attended.  In 9th grade, they attended my first indoor track meet (at the University of Rochester), and I actually got lapped in the 1500 and came in last.  I told them to never come to a meet again.  Things have changed!
This spring, I was fortunate enough to crack through 2 mythical running barriers: sub 20 in the 5k and sub 6 in the mile.  I am sure that to a degree, the two go hand in hand, if you can break one, you can break the other, but it was still very cool to have both happen in the same season.  I was really pleased with how this racing season went - I was able to PR in the mile, 5k, and 10k.  A lot of that has to do with Sarah's coaching and scheduling.  She put together 5 good months of training for me, and knew how to schedule races and workouts in a way that led to some strong performances!
But the McMullen Mile meant an official end to my spring racing season.  I have been on a formal training schedule since January 9th.  I am going off of a schedule for the next month or so.  Sarah told me to take a few days off from running, and then just run when I want to.  I will be doing another race (Airport 5k in Rochester) in a couple of weeks, but won't be doing any focused training for it.
Mile training was a good experience for me.  The workouts were very hard and require a different type of skill/focus than the longer stuff.  I'm looking forward to giving it a go again down the road, but also looking forward to running for fun right now!


  1. Great post! And congrats on a very successful race season!

  2. Excellent job Vanessa! I'm so impressed by the progress you've made in shorter distance races this year. Keep it up!