Flint Hills Mile: Slow enough to invoke the wrath of John McEnroe
The downside was my time a personal worst (PW) in an official mile race. Previous worst was a 5:08 soon after arriving here in Fairbanks with my family in 2004. The situation was somewhat similar, in that I was coming off long term injury. But that year we had a lot of smoke already and it was just 5 days after Midnight Sun Run back then: we had 12 this time.
Didn't have the most spry attitude yesterday and just wanted to get it done. In fact I was thinking over the last hour or two before the race, okay that's it. NO MORE of these miles. Too old to run the mile anymore and I can't get the leg turnover going, and training is difficult. But then you see these 80 year olds out there and what can you say?
Based on minimal speed work (less than 4 miles at mile pace over the past month (i.e., 1500 m to 1 mile at race pace over 4 weekly workouts), I knew sub 5 would be tough but came in pretty confident that I could do low 5 (5:02 to 5:06 seemed realistic). The plan was 78,77,76 and kicking in with 73 or so. I think you have to run a 73 at least once or twice in practice before you do it in a race.
A lot of the usual suspects were not in attendance (Brinegar, Kramer, Eversman, McDowell, Linberg, Nelson et al.), but I knew that Chad Carrol would set tough pace up front. Didn't know any of the other younger guys so this was the lightest FHM field in my years here.
I was in about 8th or 9th through the first lap, which got strung out with Carrol's fast pace (maybe 69 sec). I came through in 79. Too slow, but my practice efforts had been too fast (76s) which resulted in tying up later).
Started to pick up at the lap but still came through only 2:38 at the half, in 6th place. At this point I could swear to hearing age compatriot John McEnroe (born a year after me) screaming all the way from LA:
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I can't F@YY%I\G BELIEVE how SLOW you are running!!"
Picked off one guy around the first turn another on the back stretch, and one more in the far turn. Back into the breeze toward home one more guy 20 meters ahead. Honviently veered into lane 2 and I passed him with a lap to go (3:55). 3rd place, wow.
By now I was pretty mad, what with figurative Johnny Mac yelling and all, so really tried to kick it in over the final 300. Thing is there just wasn't much in the tank. Might have gained on 2nd a little but he was more than 50 m ahead on the final turn and finished almost 15 sec ahead.
They made us veer into lane 2 at the finish into a human chute (only in Alaska) and I crossed in 5:11.7, 11 sec slower than '08 and '09, and what would have been solid 10K pace a couple decades ago. I missed All-American by 1.8 sec.
Oh well, had a good run there for several years. If my training was Monopoly, I'd be trying to win the game on the purple and blue properties with 3 houses, not hotels on the yellow and greens.
Last year I was injured, thinking I might be out for two or three weeks, but it turned out to be the rest of the year. So, 5:11 it is, which is actually fairly consistent with the 10-12/mile slower for 5K and 10K so far this year.
Next up, 8K in two weeks. Run for the Valkyries is not my favorite local event, but it's on the calendar and it's in the series so 8K out and back along the Chena River it is. Santa Claus Half next month is the one I'm really looking forward to.