RACES: Fit4Life Autumn Mile

“This is going to be interesting,” was my primary thought driving to Charlesland Athletics track this evening for the penultimate race of Sli Cualann’s “Fit4Life” race series. Five races where scheduled on the track over the mile distance graded by the expected times ranging from slower than 8:30 to the fastest group for those expecting 5:30 or faster.

The “PB” track

I ran my own personal mile best many years ago at 5:10 during a time trial I had setup for myself on the very same track. It was off the back of a very good spell of training reasonably specific to the mile. The last few weeks I spend re-establishing what I call my “serious training routine” and organising around my commitments in a way that will facilitate the right rhythm and the right levels of recovery.

While I run most days of any year, there is a difference between having every session 100% planned and focused and “just running”. My intent in tonight’s race was to establish a marker before undertaking any type of structured training.

No “Priming”

As I arrived I noticed the evening had drawn a very small crowd and I shortened my warm-up to join the sub-5:30 group at 7:40pm instead of the 8:00pm race for 5:30-6:30 finishing times. I expected ahead of time to be in or around 5:30 at this stage. Normally I employ a very specific warm-up for the mile: the shorter a race you run the more of a warm-up you need. I use a method I discussed a number of years ago called “priming” which consists of mobility and jumps followed by 10 minute easy trot and then 2-3 minutes at 5k intensity followed by 3-4 very fast strides and a 5 minute total rest.

Unfortunately, jumping into the earlier race I had to settle for three easy laps but I can only blame my own planning – I should have left enough time to keep entry into either race open. Why would I pick the slower or faster one you may ask?

A different distance

Running a mile compares to running a marathon like the difference between doing several hundred “air squats” (squats without weight) and doing about 10 repetitions of deadlifts with very heavy weights. So the body needs to be sharper and you need to be ready to take the significant forces involved in the much higher speeds.

I wanted to avoid two things tonight: 1) getting too competitive and losing focus on good technique and 2) not having enough competition to keep a hard enough pace. In the end I lined up with just three more faces – all familiar: Dominic Horan, Dessie Shorten and AJ Cotter. I opted to go barefoot instead of in the Aqua Lites because the track is extremely soft and spongy in Charlesland and I knew shedding a few hundred grams from my feet would likely make me a bit faster and make the race a better test of current technical ability.

The race

We took off to the sound of a real gun and I slotted in for 100m behind Dominic and Dessie. On the first corner they established gaps that seemed to remain pretty static for most of the remaining race. The outstrait was tough every time with even the slight wind feeling heavy but the home-strait made up for it every time and I came across lap 1 in 83 seconds. I hit half-way in 2:43 (80 sec lap) and then ran 85 for the third lap before speeding up a bit to cruise home in 5:32 (84 second last lap). I noticed that I had no sprint power either at the start or the finish and I felt neither “strong” nor “weak”. As you’re meant to feel at the beginning of a schedule really!

After the race I was positively surprised to win a 15 euro voucher as the first senior man (meaning younger than 35 but not a junior!) with both Dessie and Dominic gracing the masters categories. I believe I may have been the only man in that category attending which was a pity as I would have enjoyed having a flailing field of aggressive competitors around me. On the plus side I could run glued to the inside line the whole way round. My Garmin watch proved that it is by no way perfect – recording 1.66 – a full 50m out for a 1610m distance (3% – within the 5% expected variation).

I was even more positively surprised by a vaulting bar on the track and I took the opportunity to do some split vaults after a 3.5km cooldown with Dessie, Dominic and AJ.

So what did I take away from the event:

  • Technique was solid but lacked power and a bit of coordination
  • I was gasping for air for 20 or 30 seconds after the race but then recovered quickly and was tempted to do a second heat!
  • Never reached a point of muscular failure or complete breakdown of form
  • Kept a very good pacing: 83-80-85-84.

Peter Coe and David Martin identified the ideal pacing strategy used in most world class miles as 49% of the time for the first half and 51% for the second. I managed to hit 49.1% and 50.9% (2:43 and 2:49) so glad to see I have not lost my “metronomic abilities” of pacing in these last 15 months of non-competitive training.image

The VDOT score (equivalent oxygen consumption) was 53 compared to my PBs who are all in the 56-58 range currently and as good as most other miles except the one “great” performance in 2009.

This means I now have a much more precise understanding of my current training ability in faster workouts. Interestingly, the race performance today is pretty similar to all other race performances this year if you look at the VDOT. My average for the year is 52.75 and today’s race ranks as 53.01. So a lot of data from one small local race. As I said to Dominic – I often regret that I am not as well-suited for shorter distances as for longer – the mile is a great distance to race and it’s easily fitted into a Thursday night!