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Rough Mile for Mike “Smooth as Butter” Randall

March 30, 2012

On March 24th I ran in the 2012 Manzano Mile, the second year of the event hosted by local Olympian fast guy, Leo Manzano.  It was, uh, an interesting day.  That’s about the best I can say of the experience.  Heading into the race I’d been racking up many weeks of 70+ miles, mostly run easy but on tough trail terrain.  With my 2012 focused on the build towards the Cactus Rose 100-miler this October 27th, I need all the rugged, hilly trail miles I can fit it.  But, knowing this 1-mile race was looming, I did make sure to get in some speedier efforts once or twice a week, mostly 1/4- and 1/2-mile repeats on the treadmill.  I’ve also been doing some tempo work and hit some hard hills on the longer runs.

I figured I was ready for a big mile PR, shooting for 5:29 but hoping for something faster.  5:20, maybe?  Though this was my first track race of any kind, I “knew” a track mile would be faster than a road mile, even if my legs were a bit shot from the non-specific training.  Since there are no gimmes I figured a kinda worst case performance would be low 5:30s, maybe 5:35.  Well, I was wrong.

It turned out there were 8 guys in the M35-59 heat.  I wasn’t focusing on beating everyone and that’s a good thing, as one was my always-faster buddy Andres and the only other guy I met beforehand was shooting for sub-5:00.  Lining up for the 11:00am start, I was calm and felt reasonably ready.  Just run steady and don’t blow up, I told myself.  And don’t try to go out with guys who are clearly faster.  Easy enough.

Apropos of nothing, how I spend my recovery time…

First lap I felt ok, running the lap-and-a-little [extra distance tacked onto the first lap to eventually make up the total distance needed for a true mile, which is 4 laps plus 9 meters] in 1:22 (5:28/mile pace.  Not too fast, not too slow.  The problem was that, in the course of the first 30 seconds of the race I got into something of a no-man’s land.  The top two guys were running together, the second two guys (which included Andres) were running together.  And the 3 guys behind me were enough behind me that I didn’t sense them.

The wheels came off pretty quickly, running the second lap in 1:29 (5:56/mile pace).  I just couldn’t muster the energy to go any faster and each turn and straightaway was a chore.   By the halfway point of the race I just wanted it over with and knowing that the best case scenario was not getting passed by anyone was a bit demoralizing.  All the worse knowing that Sagan and Alison (with Story attached), who very rarely see me race, were witnessing it all.

My third lap was even worse – 1:32 ( 6:08/mile pace) – and it was rough.  Most of it I just spent thinking about how I never wanted to race again.  I think it was at the end of lap 3 when the announcer commented that I was running “smooth as butter”.  I guess that sounds better than “this guy might make it all the way to the end even though the guys in front are at least half a lap ahead!”.

Lap four was marginally  better, run in 1:27 (5:48/mile pace).  I just wanted the whole experience behind me and I put in a sad little burst in the final 50 yards and ran through the line without much grace or form.  I crossed the line in 5:52, 5th of 8 in the heat.  After catching my breath, though utterly dejected, I circled back to the family with a smile.  Despite my disappointment I wanted Sagan to enjoy the day without my bad attitude.

My race footage is below, though it understandably focuses on the leaders, which means my coverage is limited and my finish isn’t included:

In what was the highlight of the day for me, Sagan ran in the kid’s event, a 1-lap race with dozens of kids 6 and under.  He had humored me with a couple of training sessions on the track in the weeks leading up to race day and I’m happy to report that he had fun AND race a PR of 2:20.  He ran the whole way and really sprinted the final stretch.

Sagan’s race, the cutest race video you are likely to see (see him flying by at 2:46 in grey t-shirt):

The finale of the event was a mile race for the elites, included Leo Manzano, the event’s host and namesake.  Leo race an amazing 3:55 – yes THREE FIFTY FIVE! – for the win, along with setting a new record for the State of Texas.  It really was remarkable witnessing the fluidity of his running.  He was just so smooth it was hard to believe he was moving so fast.

I was still a bit down as the event was winding down.  The family headed out to grab some lunch but I needed to do something to get my day right.  So, with the sun beaming down and the heat rising, I set off for a solo 5K on the same track.  I pushed hard from the start and finished in 22:19.  With still too-much bad attitude consuming my thoughts, I got home and immediately ran the hilly 2.5 mile neighborhood loop just about as hard as I could.  That did the trick, tiring me out just enough to give me the right perspective on the day.

Regardless of the mile time, I’m glad I put myself on the line to try it.  I’ve only raced the distance a few times and don’t know if I will again, though I feel like there’s still some unfinished business there.  For now it’s time to move on, with a  50-miler on April 7th and a number of months of challenges and adventures to get me as ready as I can be for the Cactus Rose 100.


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