One way to establish a baseline for racing performance is to train little and prepare poorly for a particular event. That is the way I approached Indoor Ultimate Runner, a meet that I wanted to compete in the moment I heard about it last year. It’s not so much that I planned to prepare poorly, but curiosity about my own abilities as an older runner did create a desire to know how much I had lost and how far I had to go.
I waited several months to sign up, having been surprised to read that relatively few people had signed up as of mid-winter. Since the meet was scheduled for the end of March, I had plenty of time to decide how much of a priority it would be for me, and for my training. I decided to periodize training for next year (2014), with this winter being a base mileage phase, primarily.
Indoor Ultimate Runner is an age-graded event where runners must complete five track events, and are scored according to their age-graded percentage–highest total score wins. Originally, the events to be contested were the mile, 400 meters, 800 meters, 60 meters, and 3k. That changed in an attempt to lure more track oriented runners to the event, dropping the 3k and adding a 200 meter race. The track at JDL is a 200 meter Mondo surface, the same surface that was used at the London Olympics.
Race day preparation included a short night’s sleep and a 5 a.m. road trip. More that six hours later, I had just passed Pilot Mountain State Park, in North Carolina, having decided that I did not have time to stop there first to stretch, relax, and enjoy the view at the top of the mountain. As I was gauging what time I might reach JDL Fast Track, the road in front of me morphed into a line of parked cars. Man, I wish I had stopped at Pilot Mountain! Bathroom facilities…a view of the traffic jam on the highway…I should have been so lucky. An hour and twenty minutes later I was leaving the detour on King and Rural Hall arterial roads, getting back on Highway 52 with a perfect view of fast-flowing traffic and the Garage that had apparently been put back onto a trailer. The best I would be able to do was arrive at the track facility at about race time, myself scheduled for the first heat.
I don’t recommend warming up with the fastest mile you have run in a number of years. I thank the race director, the volunteers, and a good mileage base for being allowed and able to scurry over to the start of the fourth heat and run a sub-six minute mile. It is, however, a terrible way to prepare for the next heat, a 400 meter race…which is a great way to make yourself feel nauseous without drinking anything. I thought I was out of the woods, but when a pedestrian sort of 200 meter race is the fastest and hardest you’ve run in twenty-one months, flashbacks to younger days of stupidity at keg parties will occur. The next race was the 800, which was much easier than I expected, but slower, too. My best race, not surprisingly, was the 60 meters, my first all-out sprint in twenty-one months.
I hope Indoor Ultimate Runner becomes an annual event. I intend to be ready next year. The highlight of my trip, though, was heading back to Pilot Mountain State Park that evening, running Grindstone Trail to Big Pinnacle and back down. I disturbed a few turkeys on the way up. They seemed merely inconvenienced by me, but eventually took to flight, thundering their way quickly through the treetops on the steep slope, apparently landing just out of sight. I’ve always loved stopping at that park and hiking or running its trails. That thrill carried over to the next day, when I ran 4.5 miles on technical trails the next day. Running on the track has always been fun to me, but running in the woods runs in my blood.