Yesterday I decided on a race plan for today's 3000, which was to run 100 seconds per 400. In my last race, someone for some unknown reason was kind enough to take my splits, and although I ran some laps in 100 seconds, the majority were between 104 and 107. 100 sort of sticks out in the mind as a nice number, and so I remembered that back in high school when I used to run the 3000, most of my laps were 95-98 seconds, with only a few up at 100. So I decided to run them all at 100.
100 seconds per 400, 50 seconds per lap for 15 laps means 12:30 for the race. This would be an 18-second improvement over my previous race, which sounds like a lot. But to put it in perspective, in tenth grade there was this meet at Bates where I ran the mile (5:55) and really didn't feel good, but my coaches said to run the 3000 anyway at tempo pace as a workout, so I did, and I finished in 12:31, no straining, tempo pace.
So the gun went off, and I settled happily into last place. Last place is a good place to be at the beginning of a race, because everyone goes out too fast. And indeed, I ran the first lap in 47. "FORTY-SEVEN, HEATHER," I heard a coach shout. "RELAX A LITTLE BIT." I knew I needed to lay off the pace a bit too, so I did, and the second lap was 51. "FIFTY-ONE, HEATHER," I heard this time, "PICK IT UP A LITTLE."
At this point I heard a strange slapping noise. I wondered what it was, and then I realized that it was the sound of the girl in front of me's thighs slapping each other. I decided I would not be beaten by someone whose thighs slapped together in a race. However, I decided to hang on behind her for one more lap and see if she picked it up from 51, because there would be nothing worse than passing someone only to have them get all antsy about your passing them and speed up and make a huge pain and totally ruin your race plan, all because the second lap of a 15-lap race was one second too slow.
The third lap was also 51, so I passed her. As we came around the end of the fourth lap, the coach shouted "FIFTY, HEATHER, PERFECT." So I decided to capitalize on the situation.
"HI, HEATHER," I shouted, because she was right on my shoulder. "I'm trying to punch out perfect 50s; what are you doing?"
"50s are the goal," she said.
"Awesome," I said.
"I'm not trying to pass you," she said, "I'm just pacing with you."
Here is a picture of Heather sitting on my shoulder:
Ryan Ford '09 took that picture. I was busy racing.
Anyway, it was good for her to pace off of me, because I proceeded to punch out perfect 50s. After seven or eight laps of "FIFTY, HEATHER, PERFECT," her coach stopped telling her to pass me. Then suddenly I no longer sensed her shadow just out of my field of view. I glanced back as we went around the turn and saw her two or three meters back. "YOU FOUND A GOOD ONE, HEATHER, STAY WITH HER," said the coach this time. That's right, if you're lucky enough to be able to pace off of Diana Davis, you stick with it, because you've found a good one.
To achieve this feat of metronomic pacing, I looked at my watch every 100 meters to ensure that they took exactly 25 seconds. Looking at your watch during a race is like looking over your shoulder: If you do it, people cringe. It's just not done. But I decided that I'd rather lose a fraction of a second over the course of the race and run perfectly even splits. So that is what I did.
Here is a picture of me looking at my watch:
Ryan Ford took that picture, too.
You'll notice that Heather is no longer on my shoulder in this picture. That's because eventually she was unable to keep up the perfect 50s, and she dropped back. But I kept going, and wouldn't you know, just running even splits I caught up to the next person on lap 10. Passed that one and moved up to the next pack, not straining, just running 50s. Passed them too. A few of these efforts resulted in 49s.
I had decided at the beginning of the race that if I was feeling strong with the 50s, I would go as fast as I could with three laps to go. So with three laps to go, I put in surges to pass the people in front of me, and punched out a 48. Then there were just a few more people left to catch -- even pacing, you'd think it was a new idea or something -- so I poured it on and went as fast as I could for the last two laps, sprinting it in without looking at my watch for the last 400 meters.
Here is a picture of me sprinting it in:
You'll notice that I am all alone. This is because that is how much I passed those other people by. No, really, not kidding. Looking at that picture, you wouldn't think it was possible, but a plan is a wonderful thing.
I finished in 12:15, which is 33 seconds faster than two weeks ago. Amazing what a few weeks and a couple of hard workouts can do. And amazing what you can do when you're sick if you take a little bit of medicine.
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