I’ve always wanted to run a downhill mile. Would have been nice to try back in the day when I could run a mile fast, but I’m relatively fast this year so now is a good time too. And my Garmin site has PRs recorded for a 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon. Probably seems silly, but sites like this get me the same way others are drawn to online or smart phone games. Not having an entry for the mile compels me to run one. Fast if possible. And Garmin won’t know the course was downhill. Well actually it will since my watch records elevation, but the PR dashboard won’t show that.
My expectation is to be able to run a 6 minute mile – ideally a little under. I’ve run around 6:40 for splits in 10Ks and marathons so I think 6 minutes is reasonable to assume. Ironically, I won’t be able to break 6:30 unless I warm up first with a 2 or 3 mile run. Old runners take awhile to warm up. The run starts at 7am, so I arrived by 6, collected my race bib, and began walking to get my heart rate up. Of course I primed it first with coffee.
I should be less worried about my heart. It might take 100 or 200, perhaps even 400 meters – but my heart will be with me when I need it. It’s my sinuses I can’t trust. Last week, specifically Thursday when the smoke from the West Fork fires rolled into Pagosa Springs, the soot and ash became trapped in the mucus of my nasal passageways. In response to this irritation, my sinus membranes released histamine as a defense. This in turn inflamed my sinus membranes which further produced more mucus. This poorly coded genetic instruction might someday evolve my offspring into a super species capable of surviving a post apocalyptic world that favors over-zealous histamine production, but it gave me a sinus infection. I visited Dr. Tusek yesterday and he prescribed antibiotics, Flonase and Allegra-D. He said some antibiotics would in fact preclude me from running but not this prescription and he cleared me to run. He even offered me a steroid shot but this little run isn’t that important to me and I declined it. I’d have staid in bed if I felt too bad. Forfeiting the $20 registration fee would irritate me but I really think I’m mostly doing this just to complete that Garmin stat.
Before the race, I jogged the course back and forth for a 2 mile warmup. It begins a bit steeper than I expected, dropping from 5629 feet at the start to 5554 feet in the first quarter mile. It flattens out after that for a total elevation drop of 173 feet. The top portion could be a sledding hill. This is a small race with 270 runners. Many of them are young and super fit, looking to PR for the mile. Their warmup sprints are faster than I could run all out. I line up about 8 people deep from the starting line and watch them launch off like bottle rockets on the 4th of July. I almost wish I’d been on the curb watching them race.
My goal is to average 90 seconds per quarter mile. This would hurt in a 10K but I’m hoping the downhill keeps me out of oxygen dept. It does, I’m about 4 seconds under pace after the first quarter and I feel fine. I welcome the next quarter mile as the street flattens out but I don’t slow down much, keeping well under a 6 minute pace. I forgot what it’s like to run this fast. The downhill slope keeps my heart from bursting but my thighs are burning. I thought I might run the second half faster but now that I’m into the race I’m happy thinking I can maintain my pace. In fact, I’m confident at the half mile point that I’ll finish under 6 minutes and I do. Garmin captures a 5:27 mile. Hells yeah! That’s why you run a downhill mile. For a fast time. And to clear your sinuses.