July 8, 2023

Race Report: Superior Mile 2023

This year’s Superior Mile was really different from my experience the last few years! From 2019 to 2022, as a Town Board member, the morning was a well-planned and choreographed dance of preparation: outfits laid out, breakfast ready, and the borrowed convertible decorated, so as soon as the mile race was over, I could dash home to shower, change, wolf down breakfast, and get to the lineup of elected officials leading the parade. This year, I got to attend the parade as a citizen – which meant I had over an hour to relax, go grocery shopping, shower, and stake out a spot to watch the parade. It made a big difference in my attitude and approach to the day!

I had friends visiting from Dallas since the Thursday before, but they were super accommodating in my desire to have pasta for dinner the night before the race. (Not that you need to carb load for a mile, by any means… but it’s yummy and a fun tradition!) I made this copycat Macaroni Grill Pasta Milano, and while it didn’t come out just like the restaurant version – probably because of the addition of Trader Joe’s Mushroom Umami as a seasoning – it was still really delicious. My friends and I stayed up kind of late watching a hilarious documentary, Class Action Park, but I had gotten a good night’s sleep on Sunday night, so figured I was fine.

Unfortunately, I woke up at 4am and knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep. Bummer! I intended to read a book for a little while, but instead, I grabbed my phone to check something and ended up inadvertently ended up scrolling my phone for an hour. What a waste of time! Over the last two years, I have wasted a lot more time on my phone than I once did, and can’t quite seem to break the compulsion. However, it did mean that at 5:55am when my alarm went off, I was already wide awake and ready to hop out of bed and hustle to get ready.

I immediately went to make a cup of tea, so that I could get the caffeine working… and also hopefully get me to the bathroom at home rather than in a portapotty at the start. I wore pretty much the same race outfit I’ve worn the last few years, so that was easy enough, and it didn’t take me too long to get ready. My friend James was coming to do the race as well, having accepted my offer to take a bib from my boyfriend Joe, who was no longer able to make it; James texted me at 6:25 that he was there right on time. I took my own car because I wanted to go to the grocery after the race, and the two of us caravaned over to my favorite parking spot on a neighborhood street a half mile from the start and the finish. Unlike the year I got to the start late and had to run up the hill as the racers had already started, James and I arrived about 20 minutes before the race… which meant 10 minutes walking up the hill together with a little jog for about a tenth of a mile, and then enough time to wait in the portapotty line for one more quick bathroom stop before go time. On my way from the portapotty to the line up, I saw my mom adorably wearing her race tee shirt with pride, and we wished each other luck. Here we go!

When the gun went off, I tried to take off, but the guy who was in front of me started very slowly as the other runners surged around him. Argh! One of the things I love about running is that everyone is competing against themselves and running their own pace… but if you aren’t going to be one of the fastest, you shouldn’t start on the front line, especially in an all-out race like a mile. I had intentionally not lined up right on the front line because I expected that at least 30 or so people would finish in front of me, and it was frustrating to have this guy not follow the same courtesy. I doubt he slowed me down more than a second or so, but it was still an annoying start.

Fortunately, the rest of the field was very spread out and there were no other mishaps. I pushed myself to go fast, and without looking at my watch, I guessed I was probably going about a 5:15 minute pace, right where I wanted to be. When I checked Strava after the race, I learned I had done exactly a 5:00 pace for the first quarter mile! Probably a little fast given my lack of training, but when I considered that the first quarter mile is the steepest downhill section of the course, it was just about perfect.

As for how I was feeling, though… that was not great. I knew I should have warmed up for real, rather than just jogging for two minutes and chatting with James… and I hadn’t done any strides or other fast running. While I did some stretching at the start to loosen up my muscles, that’s not at all the same as getting my lungs ready to hit it hard. But, it was too late for regrets now – either about my lack of a pre-race warm up, or about the speedwork I’ve been completely neglecting over the last month. All I could do was run the race I was in.

The second quarter of the race was where it got hard. The course flattens out a bit, and I didn’t have the adrenaline of the start to keep me going fast. I felt like there were so many more people ahead of me than I anticipated (in fact, there were 13 people who broke 4:30!), and I was definitely getting discouraged. Still, I kept pushing strong, and I later learned I had run this quarter at a 5:40 pace. Definitely slower than the first quarter, but I was pushing as hard as I could; this was just all the speed I had in me.

The third quarter, though, was the toughest. Now I was getting really tired, but the end of the race still wasn’t in sight. My music switched from one song to the next, but even the upbeat tempo didn’t get me going faster… this was just hard. I was following a few seconds behind James who was always just a little bit in front of me, and while in this part I tried to pick it up to catch up to him, I couldn’t do it. Meanwhile, I felt myself getting passed by high school boys who seem to be running effortlessly. (Looking at the results, it seems to have been a pack of 13 year old boys – crazy impressive!) This quarter slipped to a 5:48 pace 🙁 Come on Laura, dig deep and don’t give up!

But as I crossed Coal Creek Drive, I knew I had only a quarter mile to go. Though the curve of the road meant I couldn’t see the finish in front of me (and in fact, I got to the end and saw there was no finish banner this year), I knew it was less than 90 seconds away. While I knew this wouldn’t be my fastest time, I wasn’t giving up. And in fact, I managed to push to go nearly as fast as I had in the very first quarter – clocking in at a 5:12 pace for the final quarter. I tried really hard to pass James, even though he couldn’t see me, but stayed a few steps behind him as he picked up the pace as well. I gave it everything I had, and I crossed the finish line absolutely breathless.

It took me a few minutes to get myself together and check my watch, but I wasn’t very happy with my time when I did: 5:28. That was a lot slower than my time last year! (The official time ended up being 5:27, but still.) However, even though I hadn’t PRed, I did beat my more realistic goal of going sub-5:30. And more importantly, I was really proud of myself that I gave it everything I had.

Watch time: 5:28, though a 5:24 pace because of the extra little bit of distance I ran.

Most years, I finish the Superior Mile thinking, “oh, that was it? I totally could have run faster.” There’s always one stretch of this short race where I slip into a relaxed rhythm, or try to save a little bit of energy for the end, or otherwise don’t push myself quite as much as I could. But while I wasn’t trained or fully warmed up, this year, I pushed it as hard as I possibly could under those circumstances… and I was much more proud of this result than of my faster time from last year. That’s what I love so much about running – you don’t compare yourself to others, and sometimes you don’t even compare yourself to yourself; you judge the effort you put in and whether you really ran what you were capable of. Today, for one of the first races in my life, I can honestly say that I did my absolute best under the circumstances and couldn’t have squeaked out even another second.

But! Just because I was happy with my effort doesn’t mean I was totally satisfied with my results… and as I walked back up the hill with James to our cars, I invited him to join me for an unofficial rematch later this summer. I want to get more speedwork in and see if I can break last year’s result… or if between this and the Bolder Boulder where I also failed to PR, I’m finally reaching that plateau age where my performance is all about to go downhill because I am getting old 😉

Finally, I unfortunately need to add a bit of a negative note to this race recap. While I had a lot of fun doing the race, the organization left a lot to be desired. We were promised “tech t-shirts” as part of the $25 registration, but women got (ugly bright pink) tech t-shirts, and men and kids got cotton t-shirts (at least in prettier colors). I asked about that at packet pickup, and was told that they couldn’t find enough tech t-shirts for all the runners which… seemed bizarre. The start was a mass start instead of waves like they’ve done the last few years, which wasn’t a big deal for me but I’m sure made it trickier for those who started further back. The finish didn’t have an arch or other big marker like they’ve had in the past so you could see it from a distance, and it also didn’t have any water or refreshments (they advertised the Town’s free pancake breakfast post-race, but that was 1.5 miles away and didn’t start for another 2 hours). And, they didn’t have a clock at the finish line to look at as you passed, or post any kind of results on printouts like they’ve done in the past. In all, it felt like a lot to pay for a not-very-well-run race, and I really hope they find another race organization to run this fun tradition next year. But… I’m sure I’ll be back either way 🙂

Huge kudos to my mom for PRing by more than 10 seconds! I am so happy to have her in Superior with me, and looking forward to more years continuing this tradition 🙂

The two of us post-race 🙂

Race stats:
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 5:27
Pace: 5:27 / mile
Overall place: 33/329
Gender place: 6/167


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