So I'm racing in the Speed River Inferno Downtown Mile tomorrow night. This will be my first time ever racing in a mile event, and basically my first time ever running a mile flat out. I've done lots of mile repeats at threshold pace, and I've run 1600m at the track during a ladder workout last summer nearly flat out (5:25), but never that extra 9m in a racing capacity.
I'm excited to see what's in store and to test my anaerobic limits, but to be frank, I'm a bit nervous as well. I'm used to easing into a race and then basically pushing the pace until something starts to break down, or I begin to cramp up. Then it's as much a battle of willpower, composure, and fortitude as it is a battle to maintain and push myself physically. As far as suffering goes, it's a "nice" slow burn.
The mile is a different beast entirely. It's an in-your-face, death metal, mosh pit of a race. In the realm of suffering, it's more a controlled chaos than a slow burn. The mile's sweet spot lies somewhere between the heart popping, lung busting, VO2 max efforts associated with shorter distances, and the patience, grace, and artful pacing associated with longer distances. It's about pushing yourself to the limit without popping.
Having never raced the mile distance before I have only a faint sense of what my popping point might be. However, I believe a race is about getting from the start line to the finish as fast as you possibly can. It's not about just finishing. Even if you're hurt or undertrained your goal should still be to finish as fast as you can on that day. With this in mind, I think a reasonable goal for this race is around 5'30".
I may be reaching a bit on that time, or I may be short-selling myself. My only basis for comparison is the aforementioned 1600m I ran last August as part of a ladder workout session. I think I'm in better shape, however tomorrow's downtown mile is part of a two lap loop that includes a few rises in elevation and several sharp turns - including two over 90 degrees.
My original plan was to go out steady, but hard the first lap, and then dig in and hold on. Now, I think I might go out like gang busters and see if I can push passed the point my brain tells my body it's about to enter the danger zone. I know it's possible. Prefontaine lived and died (no pun intended) by this approach every time he laced up his shoes.
I've never really gone there myself. It requires a delicate balance of guts, craziness, and faith in your training. We'll see if I have the right balance to push myself to the limit tomorrow night when the rubber hits the road.
*Going to have to revise my time goal. Went down to look at the course today and found out it's running in the opposite direction I thought. Two steep uphills just after a corner are going to make things difficult. I think 5'40" is more realistic, but still possibly pushing it.
**Check back for my post race report.