Today was the annual Superior Fourth of July celebration, and it was quite a whirlwind this year! I had rebooked my COVID-delayed Run the Alps tour to do a trail running camp with champion ultrarunner Mimmi Kotka starting on July 5, and scheduled a flight to Europe as late in the day as possible… but that meant a very busy day before my flight.
While I hoped to sleep until 5:15am, I instead woke up at 3:40am and pretty quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I tried to instead spend the time productively resting, and ended up finishing a hardcover book that I wasn’t going to bring with me on my trip, so that didn’t work out badly. Finally, I got up, got dressed, and had a power bar and a cup of (caffeinated) coffee to prep me for the race. Let’s do this!
Although I only had one cup of coffee, within about twenty minutes, I was feeling the effects of the caffeine – I was definitely very jittery! The coffee had the usual advantage of helping me hit the bathroom one more time before I left the house (an especially good thing when I had some GI issues with dinner the night before), but I hadn’t ever had just one cup make me this keyed up before. I hoped it would help, rather than hurt, my race!
Before long, it was time for my mom and I to jump in the car and go. I’m not sure if I’ve blogged about it yet, but my mom moved in with me about six weeks ago; she sold her house in New York, and bought a new house about a mile from me. But when I say “new house,” I mean brand new – it is under construction until August or September, so she’s living with me in the meantime. While that has certainly had its challenges, I was thrilled that she would finally be in Superior for the Fourth of July festivities. And I was delighted that she wanted to join me in doing the mile race!
We drove over to my usual parking spot on a cul de sac off Heartstrong – about a half mile from the race start, but easy to get in and out in spite of the road closures. It’s always nice when I’ve done a race so many times that I know the insider tips on where to park! I had originally thought I’d do a few miles of jogging to the start to warmup, but instead, I decided to walk with my mom up the course to point out a few features (“there’s the halfway point, watch for that uneven pavement there, see the flatter grade there”). Once at the top, though, I had a cup of Gatorade to try to quell the coffee jitters, and then said goodbye to Mom as I headed for the portapotty and to get a warmup in.
I ended up running down the course about a quarter mile at a very easy jog (about an 8:30 pace), then back up the way I came, trying to pick up the pace a little bit on the uphill and get my heart rate pumping. Years ago, Adam told me that a 5 minute warmup was appropriate for a mile, but based on my running lately, I think a 2-ish mile easy jog might have been better. Oh well! As I neared the top, rather than running back down for another repeat, I ran into my neighbor Matt who’s also into trails and long distance, and slowed to walk with him and discuss the race. It was his first time ever racing a mile, and he had no idea what to expect on that short of a distance. I was really excited for him!
Back at the start, people were lining up, and I realized there were only about five minutes left, so I said goodbye to Matt and joined them. With my place toward the front secured (I have learned my lesson several times in the past at this race to not let little kids start in front of me), I turned my attention to creating a “race playlist”, aka picking out the 1.5 songs I wanted to listen to before I would be done 🙂 I ended up creating a 16 minute Superior Mile playlist of four Brothers Osborne songs, so I could easily skip to the next one if I wasn’t feeling that particular one. For this short of a race, my mental game would be even more critical, and I wanted a good beat and inspiring lyrics!
With no more time to jog, I used the lineup time to stretch out my hips, quads, and calves, but I still felt like my heart was racing, although I had stopped running several minutes before. I quickly realized that the caffeine had my heart going a little bit nuts: Garmin was clocking it at 120 beats per minute standing still! I had no idea how this was going to affect my running, but nothing I could do about it now…
And after the National Anthem, we were off! Last year, I had made the dumb decision to hold my phone in my hand (and promptly threw it out on the course in front of me when I started); this year, I had it tucked away securely in a flip belt under my shirt, and that worked quite well. After taking off, I hit the button on my Aftershokz to unpause, and the beating pulse of “All the Good Ones Are” started driving me forward.
My strategy for this race is usually very simple. I divide the race into quarter mile splits (which happen to correspond with the road intersections). For the first quarter, I start out sprinting as fast as I can. In the second quarter, I keep going. In the third quarter, I hang on as best as I can. And in the fourth quarter, I kick it with any extra energy I might have 🙂 Simple, but not easy!
This year, though, neither the coffee nor the beat was driving me forward fast enough. As racers took off around me, I felt like I was going at an easy jog instead of really pushing it to a sprint. I tried to pick it up, but I somehow felt like my legs couldn’t go any faster, even as my lungs were telling me this was an easy conversational pace. Come on, Laura – don’t take it easy!
It made zero sense to me at the time how I couldn’t push faster, but now that I have the hindsight of Strava data… I realized that I ran the first quarter mile at a blistering 4:40 / mile pace. That’s faster than 12.0mph on the treadmill; I don’t think I’ve run that fast in my entire life. So the shocker is not that I was slow like I thought; it’s that I felt so easy and relaxed running that insane pace. Maybe hooray for caffeine after all?!
In the second quarter, I struggled to hold onto this pace (hmm, wonder why). The road flattens out a bit here, and while it doesn’t actually go uphill, I knew it would kind of feel like an uphill compared to the downhill of the first quarter. While I ran the first quarter in 1:10, I ran the next quarter in 1:27 (5:48 per mile pace). Of course, I didn’t find this out until after the race; in the moment, I felt like I was finally picking up the pace and starting to work hard and go faster. Silly brain!
The other odd thing was that the course was somehow not as I remembered it. The course itself did not change at all from previous years; however, I clearly remembered the intersections as splitting the course into even sections (0.25, 0.5, and 0.75 miles). I had trouble getting a good view of my Garmin during the race due to the sun, and was worried about tripping while I was trying to squint at it. But I thought I crossed the 0.25 mile intersection at 1:34 (far too slow for a quarter mile, but it made sense with how slow I was feeling), and the 0.5 mile intersection at 3:12 (eeeeeek even slower). In fact, those intersections were at 0.3 and 0.6… meaning I was on track for a strong PR and didn’t even know it!
But while I had no idea what pace I was on track for, I was paying attention to the runners around me… and there were two professional-looking women just in front of me, in ridiculously good shape and clad in bun huggers and sports bras. Although I didn’t feel like I was changing my pace at all (who knows whether that was true or not, with how my brain was failing to gauge my pace accurately), I went back and forth with the two of them quite a bit. With the driving beat of “Stay a Little Longer” in my ears, I found my rhythm and my motivation. I found myself “wishing I could stay a little longer” on this course – this was fun! I did a little bit of air drumming as I ran, and by the time I got to what I thought was the 0.75 mile intersection at 4:37, I set a goal of passing my two competitors at the end, even if my time was well over six minutes.
With that miscalculation of the intersection being at 0.75 miles (vs the 0.88 miles it truly represented), I actually only had about a tenth of a mile left. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough. I kicked it in hard, drawing my face into a grimace – and remembering Adam’s long ago advice that “if you are smiling through the finish, you didn’t go hard enough.” But even with my best ugly face showing as I gasped for breath, I couldn’t pass the two women, and finished right behind instead 🙁
However! When I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and squinted into the sun to see it, I got quite a surprise. I had finished in 5:17!!! This was far faster than I ever dreamed I had gone, and I thought it might even be good enough for a PR, depending on what my official chip time had been. With my watch showing that I had run 1.03 miles at an average pace of 5:12, I knew I had run well and strong. Now, I just wished I had been able to push harder in that first quarter mile, as my perception was that was where I left some extra time on the course.
My neighbor Matt came in just 20 seconds after me, so after congratulating him, I headed up in front of the finish line to cheer for others and watch my mom come in. While she had been intending to walk the whole thing, she surprised us both by jogging it in beautifully, finishing in 11:43! I was so proud of her – she’s been walking a lot lately, taking Sadie out for 3 miles a day, but she hasn’t run in several years. And she looked so happy and had so much fun doing it!
As soon as she finished, we snapped those finish photos, and then started walking up to the car, cheering for other racers as we went. When we got to the first intersection, my mom introduced me to two race volunteers she had met – and one of them turned out to be a PwC colleague of mine, whom I had always wanted to meet! What a small world… I loved it.
From there, it was time to try for a second PR. We got back to the car at 7:26am, and I was supposed to be lining up for the parade at 7:45am. In that 20 minutes, I needed to go home, shower, change, dry my hair, and drive back. Yikes! I didn’t quite make it on time, but I was pretty darn close – getting out the door with my mom and Andy (whom I had solicited to be my chauffeur) at 7:50am. From past experience, I knew that would be just fine, even though we still needed to decorate the neighbor’s convertible I was borrowing.
And I was right! The town provided us with a lot more decoration supplies this year… enough that I wasn’t sure where to put them all! But Andy turned out to have some good crafty skills and figured out what to do with the flags, ribbons, and streamers. Thanks to his talents, we finished with just enough time for me to slather myself in sunscreen and hop in the back as the parade began.
This year’s parade was much quieter and low key than in years past. I had no idea why until my mom explained afterward that a lot of people were boycotting the fourth of July to protest the overturning of Roe vs Wade. While I understand the upset, I was bummed it impacted our town celebration, particularly when we are still in the midst of fire recovery and we need to rally our Superior spirit.
But in spite of the subdued attitude, I was still thrilled I got to ride in the parade! I love wishing everyone a happy fourth of July, throwing candy to the kids, and hearing constituents exclaim, “oh, it’s Laura!” as my car goes by. It’s hard for me to believe it’s already been four years since my election, but the strongest value I campaigned on was transparency, and I’m really proud of myself for the changes I’ve impacted in that area. Besides my own video / podcast / written summaries of meetings, which I publish to increase awareness of local issues, our staff has also started sending town-wide emails recapping what’s happening. Engagement has definitely increased, and while I couldn’t care less about who knows me in town (actually, I would rather be less known in town so I wouldn’t feel like I need to always be “on” when I’m just popping down to Safeway for a grocery item or two), I take the fact that residents recognize me as a sign that they are paying attention to what’s going on.
While I once again ran out of candy to throw before I got to the end of the parade route, I ran out much later than in years past, which I’ll take as another win. Before I knew it, we had made it to Community Park, where we were finally reinstating the free townwide pancake breakfast that’s been on hiatus the last two years due to COVID. Superior is back! I couldn’t spend too long at the breakfast, but I got to see a few advisory committee members, town staff, and neighbors before heading home to un-decorate and return the convertible, bid Andy farewell, finish packing for my trip, and head off to the airport.
And with that… I’m off for a week of trail running in the Alps! It’s certainly going to be at a much slower pace than the Superior Mile, but today’s PR gave me a lot of confidence going into a trip that I imagine is going to be very physically challenging. In spite of my PR at the Bolder Boulder, I’ve continued to believe I’m not in the best shape right now, especially after a low-mileage June thanks to two weeks of traveling and illness.
But PRing by 19 seconds in a single mile?! That is phenomenal – and is perhaps a sign that I’m coming back stronger than ever. Maybe this is just the in-flight champagne speaking, but I’m in a good mood for the first time in a while, and starting to realize that perhaps my athletic strength is the ticket to getting me through this tough period. A lot of other things may be challenging in my life right now, but between Bolder Boulder and the Superior Mile, my running abilities seem to be no fluke. I’m now eagerly looking forward to the next week of testing my limits in the French Alps, and hopefully returning to Colorado even more confident than before.
Distance: 1 mile
Pace: 5:16 / mile
Overall place: 38/360
Gender place: 7/165
Age group place: 3/102