2010 Congress Avenue Mile Race Report

Posted: May 23, 2010 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Well that was certainly different. 

After running back to back marathons Run for Dom took on the Congress Avenue Mile as our next race.  Having never run anything shorter than a 5K – which in fact I have run exactly twice since 2005 – the mile was something of a mystery to me.  The biggest challenge that I would be facing for this event would not be my fitness level, health or mental strength.  It would simply be my inexperience. 

Having no experience with training, preparation, race strategy we were certainly at a disadvantage on Saturday.  I didn’t even know what to order for dinner on Friday night.  Do I need Carbohydrates for a 1-mile race?  Protein?  Should I just load up on Twizzler?  Who’s to say?  As I was laying out my race gear on Friday night I affixed my D-Tag (timing chip) to my brand new – never worn – Brooks T6 racers, I simply chuckled to myself.  What the heck am I even doing ….

But with great confidence, false bravado really, I woke up, geared up and drove down to the TX State Capitol.  Scene of my first mile race at age 42.

I found a great place to park right next to the Capitol Building, found some soft grass and stretched leisurely as I ate my protein bar and sipped on a grape Gatorade.  I put on my “heavy” 12.4 ounce Asics Gel Nimbus 11 trainers and ran some very light strides to shake loose.  My legs felt really refreshed from a light mileage week and appeared to have a lot of “juice” in them.  Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad I thought to myself as I went back to the truck to change into my new racing flats.

Immediately after I pulled on my new shoes I felt different.  It was like wearing a pair of slippers instead of running shoes.  At only 5.1 ounces both shoes put together weigh almost 1/3 less than a single training shoe.  I pulled on my Marathon Maniacs singlet – just to intimidate any of the sprinters in the crowd – and walked up to the starting area.

The mood at the Capitol was markedly different from any marathon I had ever  been to.  Smiles all around, lots of runners laughing and joking, just a few “serious” guys here and there getting ready to race – but the vibe was very “Austin” if you know what I mean.  Everyone was just happy to be there and do their own thing – whatever that is.  One of my favorite things about our city.

I chatted with a few veteran runners, spoke about how the very narrow exit leaving the Capitol driveway less than 1/10 of a mile onto the course would be a bit “dicey” if you couldn’t find some open road and I took full advantage of my “smallness” to sneak within 15 runners of the starting line.

Being a “newbie” to the mile I was looking for someone to pace me over the first 1/4 mile.  Running with the “Masters” men, which is a kind way of saying “over-40” without saying it, I felt like I belonged, but I needed some help pace me over that first 400 meters.  I wanted to make sure I neither went out way too fast which would cause me to blow up before we reached the Congress Avenue Bridge or that I went out too slowly and ran out of real estate before I could recover and hit my goal time.

I was thinking something around 5:40 would be respectable,  1/4 mile splits of 1:20, 1:30, 1:30, 1:20 would get me there.  I heard a runner talking about running an :80 second first quarter with another who wanted to cover their first quarter in :75.  Those were my guys.

The horn sounded and like a flash off we went – I stuck close to my guys and navigated the tricky exit out of the Capitol onto Congress Avenue where we had more than four full lanes of traffic to race in.  I fell into a quick pace, churned the legs and let my new Brooks T6 racers do their thing.  I could hardly feel my feet touch the pavement over the first 1/4 mile.  As I hit the first mark I glanced down at my watch and had run the first quarter in 1:19.  Perfect.

This was going to be the tricky part where I would fall back into a “comfortable cruising pace” – fast, but not too fast, as I would want to leave something left to kick over the final 200 meters.  It was at this point where my inexperience got me. 

I dialed back the pace slightly and ran a 1:24 second quarter-mile.  :06 faster than what my pre-race plan was calling for but I didn’t know how fast I was going until I glanced at my watch.  I did not have my usual “internal calibration” to lean on as I simply did not have enough experience running that pace to know how it “felt”.  

The other problem was I had no idea if that was even the pace I “should” be running.  Too fast?  Too slow?  I guess we would find out. 

I realized I was going a bit faster than I had planned, so I let up ever so slightly on the gas and let my “pacer” move ahead of me by another few runner lengths.  I was still keeping contact with him and felt like I could catch him on the bridge if I could kick at the end.  The next thing I knew it happened.

I caught myself daydreaming.  It only lasted about :10 seconds, but as a long-distance runner who frequently allows their mind to drift from topic to topic on a training run, my body started relaxing and I caught myself slowing.  Irritated at myself for losing my focus I picked up my pace a bit and would end up running my third quarter-mile in 1:26.

I looked up ahead and could see the marker for 300 meters to go.  I had planned on starting my push at that point of the race and noticed that even at the steady pace I was holding, I was gaining quickly on the runner that I had been using to pace me.  We hit the 300 meter marker in stride and I felt like I had quite a bit left in the tank.  At 200 Meters I went into my kick and gobbled up 100 Meters in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

Final Kick

I was breathing in and out on stride at this point but was still not experiencing a real “burn” from my legs.  I went full throttle over the final 100 meters and closed strong passing 3 more runners at the finish.  My final quarter-mile split was 1:15 – Overall time 5:24.

As I caught my breath in the finishing area it was a strange feeling.  Was I really done racing in less than 6 minutes?  What do I do now?  I chatted up a couple of runners, grabbed some grapes, a cookie and my finishers medal and then saw my wife Dawn and our friends Sarah and Tedd. 

I felt proud of my time, but almost immediately started thinking that I had sold myself a little bit short in preparing my pre-race plan.  With no way to really “know” what kind of pace I was capable of holding I know it was wise to err on the side of caution.  That said, I immediately knew that each of those two middle quarters could have been run at least :05 seconds or so faster.  Similar to the way that I felt after my first marathon I thought to myself, “I can do better”.

New PR for the Mile!

As for my new shoes – absolutely loved them.  They were certainly lightweight but also very comfortable.  No soreness in my feet, ankles, knees, hips – in fact I felt great after the race.  I still think I will keep them on the shelf only for races 10K and less, but after their baptism by fire I give them two big thumbs up.

The Congress Avenue Mile was a great event and a whole lot of fun.  I don’t think that I’m going to be going out and looking for any track shoes anytime soon, but I am going to take my speed work a little more seriously between now and the Holland, TX 5K in June.  I’ve got an age group title to defend up in Holland and maybe even a new PR to set at the 5K distance.

Brooks T6 Racers

As for Saturday – it’s always a great day when you run a PR and since this was my first ever timed mile, I pretty much had that goal locked up by the time I got out of the truck and made my way to the starting line.  5:24 – I’ll take it.

That time was good for 14oth overall, 15th in our Division.  For our first ever attempt at the distance, not too shabby.

But look out next year all you Masters runners … I figure chasing my daughter around for 9 months or so by then, I should be able to shave at least :10 off that time.

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Comments
  1. Connie says:

    Joe You done great. Love to read all about your runs.
    Even tho I don’t understand what your talking about sometimes.lol
    I love the way you put words together. YOUR STILL THE WINNER

    • joerunfordom says:

      Connie- Thanks so much for the visit and the message! I also wanted to thank you for the “package” that arrived this past week. You are the greatest, your support of Run for Dom has been amazing – thank you so very much.

      Yesterday was really fun and ended up 15th in my age group/Division. Not too shabby 140th place overall. I’ll take it!

  2. Stu says:

    Hey Joe!

    Great race. Sounds like you had fun. Glad you had a chance to test yourself at the mile.

    Stu

    • joerunfordom says:

      Stu – thanks stopping by and for the message! If you get a chance to run one of these you have to go for it. Was absolutely a blast. I was a little sore in “strange” places this morning on my 10-miler, but no guts, no glory!

      Best, J

  3. Mad DOG says:

    Nice PR for the mile Joe!

    I’ve never done anything less than 5K and those are very few. I have been working on some speed training with Jeff Galloway and he recommends “magic miles”. He said that the average of three of these done on separate occasions is a good predictor of marathon times.

    I went to his calculator and plugged in your 5:24 for a single mile and the calculations show that you are capable of a 3:03:55 marathon.

    Whoa…that’s a burning marathon.

    By the way…your mile…it was a burning mile–even if you didn’t feel the burn. (if you want to have a chuckle / laugh…I am having a hard time breaking a 7:00 magic mile….)

    Do they pass out gels at the half mile mark? Do they have pacers…with balloons and signs?

    Its a different world out there with mile races, it sounds like. Something most marathoners haven’t been exposed…unless they have early running histories….it was way cool to hear this report from you…

    Keep smiling and run long (…or short)
    Marathon Maniac 186…madDOG

    PS What’s your next 26.2er?

  4. Mad DOG says:

    I just watched the men’s elite mile from the reference on your blog…whoa…what a race!

    What division did you run. How many runners in that division, about? It looked like the course was slightly downhill…is that right?

    I was surprised…there didn’t seem like a lot of spectators…?

    How did you get your body to stop after a mile????

    It is a different kind of thing…the mile. Did they have a mile race for old battleship caliber marathoners–like me?

    Again…thanks for the interesting report.

    MM 186
    madDOG

    • joerunfordom says:

      Mad Dog – man it really is a cool experience. A lot of guys were joking in the over 40 Men’s starting corral about water stops and portapotties on the course – but it was just a fast, fast trip.

      It was almost an “over before you know it” kind of feeling. I would say the spectators were heavy up top at the capitol to watch the runners jump out onto Congress Avenue – and then right before the bridge with 400 meters to go.

      The other thing that was strange was you really didn’t “see people” like you do during a marathon – everything is a blur, faces, sounds, even the pounding of the pavement sounds different.

      I thoroughly enjoyed it and really do want another crack at that distance. A 3:03:55 Mary though? Phew – now that’s fast!

      Next full will be in Austin I’m pretty sure – there is a small marathon in October literally run on the trail where I train that has me intrigued, then the full Austin Marathon in the winter that is on my radar – with Baby #1 on the way a lot of that will depend on how baby bear and momma bear are doing! Best to you MM 186! Was proud to rock the MM singlet yesterday!

  5. Joe says:

    Awesome report Joe! Like you, I am more of a long distance guy. It is funny how we don’t know what we are capable of until we actually try. Now that you know you can do with no experience or 1 mile specific training, imagine what you will do next year!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Joe – thanks so much for the visit. You are so right – I was pretty surprised yesterday at how strong I felt over the last 1/8 of a mile – which of course tells me I could have raced a little harder earlier.

      Live and learn they say, and that was certainly the case yesterday. It’s funny to look at the finishing picture and how winded some of the other guys were in the chute. I’ll definitely be a bit more aggressive next year, allbeit another year older of course …

      Best to you Joe, take care. J

  6. love2run says:

    Great report Joe! I’ve never done a mile either and am slightly intimidated by it as in having no clue about how to take my marathon legs to such a short race. Have to get one in this season and see for myself what its like! Imagine if you trained for this what u could pull off!?

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks so much for the visit! I would absolutely recommend you give the mile a shot if you can find a race this year. It really was something going at that pace and “running like a kid” for a change. It really was a blast and certainly the mileage that we put in training for marathons helps.

      I think you are right that with some more frequent and focused speed workouts we could really do some damage at that distance. The key is learning to run right on that threshold of aerobic vs. anaerobic exertion. If we can master that pace, we can be very dangerous.

      Best from Austin! J

  7. Jodi Higgins says:

    Awesome race report! Great job! I did run the mile in high school and I think my best time was a 5:50 but I was in majorly impressive shape back then and I was only 18. LOL. Thanks for introducing me to the daily mile. I love it! I have been adding my workouts from this year!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Thanks for the message – so glad you got started over on Daily Mile – you will love it! Lots of great support over there for us “crazies” who love to run, bike and swim.

      I was pretty psyched with my time yesterday, but of course now I’m wondering if I can make a run at 5:00 with some training …. it never seems to end! Enjoy your cruise Jodi!

  8. Lara says:

    What a fun race!! I agree, you could have pushed pace a little more in the mid-section, but that’s hind-sight. Next mile race… watch out! See, now ya know! Experience is good like that. I love hearing about the racing flats, too, it’s cool to know that they can seriously make a difference.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Lara! I definitely think the flats made a big difference yesterday. Kind of like swinging a baseball bat with a doughnut (weight) on it and then taking off the weight to swing against a pitcher. The bat still weighs as much as it always did – but man does it feel lighter.

      It seemed like I could really crank that leg turnover and had very little to no weight on my feet. This morning my trainers definitely felt heavy on my first mile, then I got back to “normal” after a short time.

      I think for anything 10K and less I’ll be wearing those T6’s for sure. Best, J

  9. nyflygirl says:

    “Should I just load up on Twizzler?”-that made me laugh 🙂

    Congrats on exceeding your goal! Great report.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks so much! Now I let everyone in on my secret I may be in trouble down here racing in Austin. Twizzler-power is something I fully believe in! Take care, J

  10. onelittlejill says:

    WOW—that is some serious time!!!!

    I think the maniacs shirt was the perfect choice to wear for this race!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Jill! Was pretty happy overall, but of course now think about all the things I could have done to run a little faster …. typical post-race “what ifs”.

      Really enjoyed rockin’ the MM singlet for sure. I think that will be my preferred race day attire for some time now.

      Take good care! J

  11. onelittlejill says:

    No worries on the blogroll- you were only a little busy these last few weeks 🙂

  12. tbrush3 says:

    Nice job Joe! Nice to get rolling out there I am sure. I heard said about these short races. There is still pain but it just takes less time to get there. That is a great effort.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks for the visit Trey! Sounds like your young one had quite the race himself this weekend. That is great stuff! Definitely true about the short distance racing. Even in a 5K you have some time to get into your grove, but that mile was over in the blink of an eye.

      Amazing how quickly the time went. I’ll be back at that distance again though, it was a lot of fun. Best to you from TX, J

  13. Nora says:

    Joe I totally understand your feelings about this race. I have been focused on training for my first 1/2 on 6/6 but opted to run the TC 1 Mile for fun and to see if I could get a guaranteed spot in the 10 mile this fall. I ran the 1 mile last year as someone who had barely run at all and was just hoping to finish it. This year I ran the race having no idea how to pace myself or what was realistic. I crossed the finish line feeling like I had more left to give and could have done better. And I told myself that I’m actually going to specifically train for this race next year. I read your race report feeling like I was reading my own… only with much faster 1/4 mile splits. Kudos to you on another great race…. and may we both get new PRs next year.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Nora – thanks so much for the message – sounds like you have come an amazing way in just the last 12 months – congratulations on such great progress and how much hard work you have put into your training.

      It is amazing how much improvement comes from hard work and how quickly it arrives.

      Just over the last two years I would say I really started understanding how much strategy and planning goes into successful racing – I used to think it was just training and “going fast” – but that could not be further from the truth.

      I think that is how runners can continue to improve and PR as they get older. We’re not getting stronger – just smarter.

      I can’t wait for another crack at that mile next year that is for sure.

      Best of luck with your half in a couple of weeks! You will love that distance. Best, Joe

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