Strava #MyMile Attempt
June 29, 2017
In case you didn't hear about the Strava #MyMile sweepstakes, here's a brief introduction to the campaign from their website:
“Just about any runner can get through a mile. But it takes courage to toe the line and go for a new PR. For a few minutes, you’ll have to believe in yourself with total certainty. You’ll be determined and relentless. You’ll be a badass on the run at top speed. It’s going to burn while you try, but feel amazing when you’re done.
Whatever your time – that’s between you and your mile. The Strava Mile is about bringing all kinds of runners together to celebrate a big, bold effort and smash a few (million) PRs, and we want you in. It’s free. It’s simple. It’s for anyone with the guts to try. Join us.”
I heard about the Strava #MyMile sweepstakes early in the month and knew I had to give it a try. I’ve only been running long distance recently, and during training, I’ve been focusing on slower more comfortable runs to rebuild a solid base without risking injury. I knew I’d set some pretty solid mile times in high school but couldn’t tell you what they were, or when the last time I ran a mile for time was. So, I decided to try the #MyMile, mostly because I wanted to see what I could manage.
With the month almost over, I knew I had to get my attempt in this week but had no idea where to start. I’ve been running pretty consistently at 8-9:00 minutes per mile but that’s during lighter training runs. I knew I could push myself a lot harder during a timed-mile, but how hard? I use Smash Run to track all of my run data so I went back to look at some of my fastest miles. To my surprise, I’d actually run a 6:56 mile in January so I decided my goal would be to beat that.
Deciding how much time to try to shave off was the next challenge. Just beating that time wasn’t enough of a goal, I needed to quantify it. I figured that since I hadn’t been pushing for time in January, actually trying to PR should easily shave off a few seconds. Combine that with the fact that I’m running more consistently and in better shape than January I decided 6:45 was certainly an achievable goal.
I was headed to Oyster Bay yesterday for our weekly run club so I took to Google Maps to try to locate a nearby track. I wanted to pace myself with quarter mile splits so I figured a track was the best place to do it. I also found this Handy Track Interval Pace Calculator so I could make sure I stayed on course every lap. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find a single track in the area but I was able to set automatic alerts on my Garmin to give me a lap time every 0.25 miles. That would have to do.
There’s a park I typically run around in Oyster Bay and I remembered that there’s an area of the park with a path that loops around the outside. I had no idea how long it was but figured that was my best option to avoid running on the road and risk traffic interrupting my attempt. According to the pace calculator, I just needed to maintain a 1:40 lap time to hit my goal.
I parked in my usual spot which allowed me to run a quick warm-up mile on the way to my starting point and was surprised to find myself feeling a bit anxious on my way out. I often get pre-run jitters the morning before a race, and, even though there was no one else around, I felt the familiar butterflies as I prepared to race against myself. I was running without my phone or music so I only had my thoughts to distract me. I focussed on breathing and ran through the numbers in my head one last time. 1:40 laps, I repeated again and again to myself.
I approached the loop and reset my watch. Paused to do a few last minute stretches, then I was off. I had no idea what a 1:40 lap should feel like, only that I shouldn’t be comfortable. Although it shouldn’t be comfortable, I also knew I didn’t want to push too hard and gas myself halfway through. As long as I was close to 1:40 in the first lap, even if I wasn’t at full speed, I could turn it up a bit on the back end to make up for lost time. I felt my watch buzz alerting me that I’d just crossed the quarter-mile and anxiously checked the time. 1:41.2
I was just barely behind pace but also confident that I could continue to speed up. I wasn’t quite gasping for air but was getting close. I pushed myself a bit harder and felt a familiar burning sensation creeping into my chest and lungs. I learned a new term today, the “Pain Cave.” A place of moderate to extreme discomfort that runner’s force themselves into over and over again. Once you’ve been there, there’s a sort of comfort that comes with finding it again because you begin to learn your boundaries and how far you can push them. I was just approaching the pain cave as I finished my 2nd lap. 1:39.5
Now I knew I was going to set a PR. Like I said, I hadn’t run for speed in a while so I’d been nervous that I’d push too hard and gas out midway through. As I crossed the halfway point, I knew that I had enough in me to finish, and knew I could continue to push harder. I continued to elevate my pace paying careful attention to my stride and my breathing. “Just keep going” was all I could think. Keep pushing harder. I felt the buzz of the third lap and saw my watch face flash 1:36.8.
As I started the last quarter mile, I wasn’t quite at an all out sprint, but I was definitely gasping for air at this point. I’d run the 400m enough in high school to know that as long as I hovered just under maximum effort, my legs would carry me across the mile mark. I’m sure by this point people in the park were probably a bit confused as to who this man was sprinting circles around the park, but I didn’t notice. I knew I was about to set a new PR, and I knew it was going to be significantly faster than what I’d aimed for. I ran that last lap in 1:33.3, officially setting my new PR at 6:30.8.
I’d managed to finish 10 seconds faster than I’d planned, and shaved a whole 25 seconds off my previous PR. What’s the best part about running a mile for time? It’s only a mile, it’s over quickly. Pushing yourself to run a timed mile, especially if you haven’t before, is a great way to learn to embrace the discomfort and explore the “pain cave.” If like me, you’re a fan of rewarding your efforts, it’s also the fastest way I’ve earned myself a beer in a long time.
The Strave #MyMile challenge may end June 30th but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a shot. Push yourself, test your limits, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!