Race Details and Weather.
The Big Bang Mile was the first USATF-NJ race of the abbreviated 2021 Long Distance Race Series. I am so excited to be part of this again!
The race took place at Bell Works in NJ which is "a work, live, play office campus, with tons of hip amenities in addition to the office tenants, a thriving hub of activity, also open to the public."
The conditions were Hot and Humid with some Wind. The race took place in heats and my 40+ Masters Women was at 9:45 am.
The course was an out-and-back with a lovely wide turn at the turnaround. It was fast. No slow 180's around a cone here! At every quarter mile there was a sign and a clock too. This was all very thoughtful.
I arrived around 8 am to meet Rich and his son for some meandering warm-up miles. 3-4 miles before the race seemed like enough. Rich's son was racing at 9 am and Rich at 10 am. This meant a lot of running back and forth to the starting line so we just ran around the campus until it was time for someone to race.
The warm up for me really started in the car. I usually listen to podcasts or audio books when I drive around. But this morning I pulled up the play list I used when I was racing well at the end of 2019. I played it loud. I felt surrounded by rhythm. I realized in that moment how much loud music is a part of my racing, but not a part of anything else for me. I need this.
When running some warm up miles, I could feel the familiar sensation of adrenaline and endorphins and all the feel-good performance-enhancing neuro-chemicals that completely flood me before a race. I forgot that feeling. I missed it. This is a special thing the body can do... to get completely amped up in anticipation of an intention to do something really hard. This feeling is so incredible. It feels like magic.
I return to what I had been doing in the past before longer races. This was just a practice run anyway.
Like I always do before races, I ate more carbs than I generally intend to eat on a daily basis. So the night before I had sushi (I prefer to eat rice or potatoes before racing, not pasta). We ate at Kona Grill, which I feel was not the best choice and I won't do that again. I don't know if chain restaurant food is just more bloating than local sushi, but it felt that way to me. I drank more water the day before that I normally do.
I had coffee in the morning, and then on the drive down I had some Fruit punch flavored BCAAs on the way to the race. I did not eat anything on race day morning because after all this was just 1 mile.
I brought 3 pairs of sneakers with me because clearly I forgot how to race. I ended up wearing all three pairs by the end of the morning, lol. I warmed up in the Endophorin Pros because I thought I would use them. I didn't feel like I could justify putting a "un-trained" mile in my expensive Nike Vaporfly Next%. But after a few strides during the warm up and ONE HUGE quarter mile sprint during the last quarter of Rich's son Mile (so we could cheer him on at both places) I decided I needed all the help I could get today :) Vaporflys it would be. I cooled down in my Pegasus.
I brought a gel... for no reason at all. Out of habit maybe? I was not taking a gel before this mile. I don't know if I would take a gel before any mile? I don't race miles. This was just a Check-In race and just showing up was winning for me today.
Health and Wellness Stuff.
I was worried about my irritated heel bursa. This was my biggest concern. I didn't want to do any damage at the start of Boston Training just to race a mile relatively "slowly" (as I am not even close to being peak shape yet). The bursa has been on-and-off the last two weeks. Today it was fine and I wanted to keep it that way. I would stop if it felt terrible. I knew this.
However, apparently running a fast mile was exactly what my bursa needed (which makes no sense). Ever since I raced that hard mile, my bursa has been the happiest and least problematic it has been lately. I can jump on just my left foot again which I wasn't able to do comfortable before the race.
Had this not been a USATF-NJ LDR Team race, I would not have raced today at all. I know I race most comfortably when I am about 117lb and I was bouncing from 122 to 126 this week. I knew I was little heavier than I prefer to be when I line up to compete. I would have waited if this wasn't a team race. I am glad I didn't wait.
Knowing all this about myself, I was confident I could be sub-7, but my goal-window was 6:20-6:45. I wanted to negative split.
Overall, I was not very confident in my ability to assess what I could really do since I haven't raced since 1/11/2020. I needed to just assess and test. That is what today was for.
What Actually Happened: The Splits
I line up one row back from the line. There is one command and the gun and I take off fast. Faster than I realized I actually could move. My watch says 5:50. This felt surprisingly nice but I know this was a very bad move. I wanted to get out of way of the small group a little before I slowed myself so I would not cause anyone behind me any issues. A few moment later I slowed down to what looked like a 6:12 pace on my watch. That feels fine for the moment, but I want to negative split and I don't feel like I could get faster from there. So I slow a bit more.
My watch seems unreliable by the first 1/4 mark, so I just try to run by feel. It says I am running 6:50 pace but I know by those around me that can't be correct. I hit the 1/2 turn around and split my watch. First 0.5M -3:02 I actually don't feel terrible. I have a little bit of hope in me that I can and will negative split this thing.
And then I complete the turn into that headwind. Excellent (not). Ok, now I know why 3:02 felt so "ok"... but I also knew negative splitting was unlikely.
I wasn't able to pick up and hold my pace. I wanted to salvage the last quarter mile at the least. My watch is still telling me I am moving at 6:50 pace or slower, BUT I felt like that couldn't be correct. I am sure others probably didn't notice the wind as much as me but I felt like I was fighting it.
My torso was getting tired. My arms were tired. Everything was tired. All I could think about was how tired I was instead what I should be doing. This needs to change. I cannot use my energy to achieve a goal if all my energy is being used to assess what is not going well. Feeling like I am working hard is not shocking. This is supposed to be hard. I have done harder things.
6 ladies were ahead of me. I couldn't tell if any more were going to pass me. I see the "1/4M To Go" sign. That clock reads 4:39. Wait, what? 4:39. 4:30 is 6:00 pace. If I kicked hard could I possibly run 6:09? But I had no oomph.... I know I had another gear in me, I know I did, BUT it was just so very hard to shift. The work of shifting gears is always so much harder than how it feels after the shift. I am out of shifting practice. Rather than shift to kick, I became complacent. Complacency is the path of least resistance. That is not ok in racing (or life, really). "This is fine. I am fine. 6:30-6:45 is fine. I don't need to make this any worse. I am almost done. This is a mile. I am not a miler. This is not what I am good at..."
Then I hear Jim O. yell something to me (and snap me out that negative self talk). I can't tell exactly what he said (later he explained and it was funny), but I knew it meant someone was behind me and I needed to move. So I took a moment to muster up all my energy and I did finally shift, but much later than I should have.
I didn't mind cruising in a few seconds slower, but I would mind if someone blew past me with less than a tenth to go. Probably with about .1 to go, I was able to open my stride a bit and feel like a runner again. Second .5M - 3:17
Clock reads 6:19. I fail to stop my watch because I am trying not to die.
I need to travel solo to important races whenever possible. I need my time with music, bad music, loud music, and my thoughts. I want to not worry about what anyone else needs at that time. I won't have the capacity to be there for anyone else when I completely self-absorbed. I just want to be self-absorbed in my car for the ride over.
I need to revisit my pre-race routine. Today was not the day to worry about that and I enjoyed having no structure. But in the future, I need make sure I know what I am doing and when I need to do it. For important races, this routine needs to be non-negotiable. I need to get on the bathroom line when I need to. I need time to change shoes when I need to, I need to make time to do strides when I need to. I need to be lined up when I need to. I know all this, but I do want to get back into the routine. I don't need to be this structured for less than very important races, but I do need to workout the routine and get my timing down.
I need to re-learn how to trust my body and my mind again when in the middle of a race. Trust is quiet and calming. Self-Doubt is noisy.
I need to not use the watch to tell me what I am doing. The watch is a liar. It always is. I never race well when I use the watch to tell me things. I race my best when I use the watch to collect data for me while I use my breathing and the sensations in my legs to set my pace. I am out of practice being in tune with my body. I am out of practice negative splitting. It has been awhile. I just need more race practice. I look forward to it!
Shannon McGinn, MS, MA, JD, EDS, CWHC.