July 12, 2019

Race Recap: Superior Mile

Race run on July 4, 2019

Last Thursday morning was the annual Superior Mile. While this has become an annual tradition for me, this year’s event was a little different than in years past!

Craig had an 8am flight, so our alarm was set for 5:30am. I figured I’d get him out the door, then have plenty of time to get ready and leave for the 7:00am race start. However, somehow time got away from me and I didn’t end up getting out the door until 6:45am. Yikes! Thank goodness the start was only five minutes away.

I parked my car at 6:52am, and knew I was almost exactly a half mile from the start – straight up the race course. I figured that would be fine – I’d do a mix of running and walking intervals, like I usually do to warm up at Orangetheory, and I should get to the start line with a minute or two to catch my breath before the actual start. I turned my Garmin on to start finding the satellites, and congratulated myself for thinking ahead.

But when I had about 1/3 mile to go, I suddenly saw the race field streaming downhill toward me, and someone (I later found it was my co-Trustee Kevin) yelled out “wrong way, Laura!” Ack – it was only 6:58am! I had partially misjudged (in addition to being late), and to compound my own mistakes, the race started a few minutes early! 🙁 If there is one race you don’t want to be late for, it’s a race that’s only 5 minutes long.

I started sprinting up the hill, trying to remember if the race had a chip mat at the start or if it was purely based off gun time. I thought it was chip timed, but I wasn’t 100% positive (especially given how many little kids insist on lining up on the front line, which always make me nervous that they’re going to get trampled). I finally came around the curve and crested the hill, and could see the chip mat in place, so I breathed a sigh of relief and slowed my sprint to a jog. I figured I’d get to the top, take a few minutes to catch my breath, and then start.

Not so. One of the race officials asked if I wanted to run, and when I said yes, she told me I needed to start immediately. What?! I took a few seconds to open Strava and start the two-song playlist I had made (Gavin DeGraw’s “Best I Ever Had” followed by Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory”), crouched down, and then took off. Oh boy – I was already out of breath before I crossed the start! (My Fitbit showed a heart rate of 135bpm, which for me is a pretty solid workout heart rate.) This was going to be interesting…

I charged down the hill and was solo for the first minute or so – which was good, since I was a little worried about having to weave through crowds of people. However, I had a new challenge. In years past for this race (and for other longer races, like the Broncos 7K), I’ve gotten used to going out with the race leaders and generally keeping pace. (For the mile, I am not a race leader, by any stretch, but I’m at least part of a big group that’s all going out at a similar pace.) However, I never realized before how much the group pushes me to go faster. When I was all alone and running, I just wasn’t going nearly as fast as I knew I should have. Some of that could probably be blamed on the fact that I started the race already out of breath, but I also realized that sprinting alone is nowhere near as easy as sprinting with a group. That said, Strava told me after the fact that I was averaging about a 5:10 pace for this part – which is much faster than I would have expected.

Before I could ponder that too much, though, I came upon my next challenge – walkers. I knew it was totally my fault that I started behind them, so I couldn’t be mad if I had to weave around them. But I lucked out – they were spaced out enough that I really don’t think anyone had too much of an impact on my race! I couldn’t run perfect tangents, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one was walking two or three abreast where I had to slow down or go around; for the most part, everyone was easy to pass.

Looking back at the results, my pace slowed down a lot for this next quarter mile. I was averaging about 5:50 in here… so maybe the other people did slow me down more than I thought? My perception seems to be totally off what I was actually running! I wish Strava had a way to change the splits that are called out, as it would have been nice to get quarter mile (or even tenth mile) splits to keep me better on track. But at the halfway point, my time was 2:48 – so an average overall pace of 5:39. Much better than I expected given my rough start! My goal was now to finish sub-6 minutes, which I felt would be respectable.

Now I was passing people in earnest, and my music changed from “Best I Ever Had” (which I love for the driving beat) to “The Edge of Glory” (whose lyrics I thought would remind me what a short time I had left to push it and run to victory). I was really happy with my song choices, and also really happy that for once, I wasn’t totally dying at this point and contemplating giving up. Granted, this was the slowest I had ever made it to the halfway point, but it felt good to not be totally wiped out right here. (And yes, Adam, I know that means I did it wrong, since the right way to race a mile is go as fast as you can until you feel like you’re going to die, then hold that pace and maybe try to go a little faster.)

I saw Coal Creek Drive coming, and I knew I had less than a quarter mile to go. Last year, this is where I really ran out of energy. This year, I reminded myself that I was thisclose to the end, and not to give up now. For the last tenth of a mile, I pumped my arms as hard as I could and tried to sprint it in hard – and I ended up running a 4:50 pace for that last tenth of a mile! Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever hit that pace before… the treadmills at Orangetheory don’t even go faster than 5:00!!! (Though I did just last week do a 30 second all-out at 12mph and 4% incline, because the flat road wasn’t challenging enough for that short of a sprint.)

I stopped my watch at 5:42 – disappointing, given that I had wanted to break 5:20, but better than I had expected to do given my sprint to the start. And when I eventually checked the kiosk with the race results, I found I had actually run 5:37. Somehow, that sounded a lot better to be under 5:40 instead of over it 😉 And it also meant I was only 10 seconds off my pace from last year, which made me pretty happy.

So… can I get a do-over?? I’m really bummed I didn’t get to truly “race” this year’s mile (even though I know it’s entirely my own fault). I am contemplating going over to Rock Creek Parkway really early in the morning someday, and perhaps getting Craig to drive a car and “shield” me from any traffic, so I can test my limit. I just don’t want to wait till next year! I love that this downhill mile is the exact grade to approximate a flat mile at sea level, so my other option will be doing a mile time trial on a treadmill the next time I’m traveling from Colorado. (Not sure yet when or where that will be, as I’m in between projects and working from home at the moment.)  However, treadmill running is very different than self-pacing, so there still is nothing quite like the Superior Mile 🙂

And speaking of nothing quite like Superior… after the mile, as an elected official, I got to ride a convertible in our town’s annual Fourth of July parade!!! One of our residents reached out to me and offered to drive me for it, and I had a fabulous time throwing candy to all the kiddos. I thought I would feel awkward waving to people, but that ended up being really fun – I was surprised how many people waved back. And the parade ended at our town pancake festival. Free pancakes for everyone, plus tons of live music and booths with games and giveaways! This is truly one of my favorite days of the year in Superior, and I was thrilled to get to make a whole day of it.

Happy fourth of July!!

Race stats:
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 5:37
Pace: 5:37/mile
Overall place: 72/346
Gender place: 21/167
Age group place: 5/25


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