NYRR Thursday Night at the Races 1/7/2010
Mile: 5:30 (83, 86, 83, 78)
800m: 2:29 (35, 39, 38, 37)
There's a danger in writing a track race report that reading the report will take longer than actually running the race, but regardless, here’s the report from my very first track race ever
, indoors or outdoors. I can start off by saying it definitely won't be my last, as this was as much fun as I've ever had racing.
The indoor track at the Armory is a rubberized 200m with strongly banked turns that, according to those who know these things (i.e. Ken), ends up being one of the fastest indoor tracks in the country. Unlike your typical road race, everyone here is lean and mean, there's a lot of spandex and neon track shoes with carbon fiber spike plates and guys who look like comic book superheroes. Everyone is doing those weird sprinter stretches and drills, with arms and legs swinging and kicking in every which direction, without an ounce of body fat in sight. This is serious stuff. I considered the possibility that I was the slowest person there. My co-worker and veteran track racer talks me through the races and process as we await our heat. Among the mysteries of the track I learned that night was the shifting split line, as we're racing a true mile and they're giving us true quarter mile splits on a 200m track. Oh, that wacky metric system ...
I watched three heats of the women's mile, where the leaders were pushing 5:00 and then tried to warm up in the cramped confines of the in-field as six whole heats of men go out. The lead men are down in the 4:20s and it's a long long time before our turn. The race director calls a 5:20 pace, shakes his head at us, and mocks us for our apparent slothfulness. Being in the slacker heat, they toss 13 of us together, rather than the usual 10. I meekly step forward to do this racing thing.
I draw the second lane, though I have no inclination to lead out. The guy on the inside lane kindly tells me that it won’t be necessary for me to throw any elbows his way, as he’s more than happy to give up his position. My first flaw was not leaning in enough on the start to get into the starting line picture. At least this picture lets me say that I was able to beat people with much cooler shoes than my own.
“On my command, step up to but not onto the white line …” (picture from Scott Dunlap)
The gun goes off, everyone flies off the line, and I tuck myself somewhere into the middle of the pack to see how things evolve. I remember coming through the first 200m lap in about 40 seconds, and being in about 5th or 6th.
And we're off ... (picture from Megan Kelly)
Many of these runners are about to pay the price for starting too fast (picture from Megan Kelly)
Boxed in! (picture from Megan Kelly)
I felt these guys were going out pretty fast for my taste, but then the leaders start slowing badly after the first lap … I hardly notice, but my friend mentions something and moves up hard into the lead. I gladly tuck into his draft.
"Let's have some fun, this beat is sick": My co-worker (in black) whips up the pace.
For some reason I make the track newbie error of staying in the second lane until my friend called out "don't run extra distance". At that point, around 500m in, I moved forward to take the lead for a bit. I felt "fine" (or as fine as could be expected) but just didn't have a good measure of my pace and was taking us through a bit off-pace. We come through the half in about 2:49.
The two of us begin to gap the field, though honestly at the point, I thought I had dropped my friend. I didn't hear his footsteps but never actually bothered to peek behind. In retrospect, I think he was actually about half a meter back the whole time. Another newbie error. Third quarter went by in 83 seconds.
In the last quarter, we start lapping the back of the field which costs a second or so as we swing wide to pass. At around 200m to go, my friend pulls to my outside shoulder and starts going very, very hard. I'm pretty confident my 33 year old legs can fend off his 52 year old legs inside, say, 100m, but I'm a bit less certain over 200m, so I let him through and tuck in real close to let him lead us out. As I pull in behind him, I clip his ankles not once, but twice. Ah, the dangers of letting a rookie on the track. At 100m we jockey a bit for the inside of the turn, but coming onto the straight there's more lap traffic (some double-lapped, I think). We're forced out to lanes 4 and 5 for a good old-fashioned all-out rock'em sock'em sprint where I edge him out at the line for about 78 on the final quarter. I see the clock tick over to 5:30 as I take the dubious distinction of winning the slowest heat.
The next half hour or so was spent hacking up the dry nasty air of the Armory. I knock back a bottle of water to try and moisten my throat, then I ponder the wisdom of racing a half mile with a kilogram of water sloshing around in my stomach. I don't think I ever got my heart rate down below 110 before I was lining up for my heat of the 800m. I thought pretty seriously about bailing on the race, since that mile was so painful. But, there I was anyway ...
As the 800m is a short race, there’s less to say. My 200m splits came in at 35, 39, 38, 37. Again I made a bit of an error in pacing off the guys in front rather than sorting out my own pace. I was also definitely still suffering from the mile and, as my third and final excuse, I did get caught in a bit of traffic and made the probably bad choice of passing on the banked curves rather than the straights. But under the circumstances I can't complain too much. Very hard, but not nearly as hellacious as the mile. 2:29 doesn't make me tremendously happy, but it’s still a PR after a painful mile race, so I'll take it.
Silly me, trying to pass on the turns in the 800m ... (picture from Megan Kelly)
My original notion that I would also race the 2 mile is completely laughable now. Much more realistic was a trip to Coogan's for burgers and beers with the championship game and some truly godawful karaoke in the background (to be clear, we did not participate).
Good times - I'll be back for sure! Makes me wonder what I'm doing with this silly "marathon" business: why endure hours of long protracted misery when you can take it in one compact, dense, bolus of pain? :)