Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Falling off the track (Terrier Classic)

(Results) On Friday night, I ran my fourth PR of the year -- 5:04.98 in the mile. This is a huge PR, of over 7 seconds, and it comes after I had already taken 4 seconds off of my PR just five days earlier. So in less than a week, my mile PR went from 5:15.90 to 5:04.98. A year of training has really paid off!

Upon checking in after my warm-up, I was happily surprised to find myself seeded in the second section. (In previous years, I have been lucky to avoid being in the very last section.) Within each section, we were randomized (the person wearing #1 was not necessarily the fastest), and I ended up with #10, in the forward part of the barrel start. Here is a video of the race, from FloTrack:

I was planning on an aggressive start, but everyone went out so fast that I just settled in the back. I was somewhat boxed in, but we came through 209 meters in 38 seconds, so I saw no reason to move. We went through two laps in 76. It felt the way it should -- not super hard -- so I was very happy with how the race was going. When we came through four laps in 2:32, I was thrilled. This was exactly the pace I wanted to be running! 5:04, here I come!

Here is a picture about 10 seconds after the start (we are still in the barrel):

There was a lot of jostling in the pack, even though I was near the back. People kept cutting me off; I had to put my arm out to prevent them from jumping in front of me, and on two occasions I thought the girl in front of me was going to fall down because I was about to run into her. I was thinking, "stop it! all I want to do is run!"I could have gotten away from it by running outside in lane 2, but then I would have to run farther than a mile, so I stayed on the rail.

We came through six laps in 3:48. "Three seconds over 5-minute pace!" I was thinking, and then suddenly the girl in front of me was going down, I was jumping over her, and I found myself on the infield. What the heck?! I had only two thoughts:

1. I've just been disqualified for taking more than 3 steps off of the track. I might as well not even keep running.
2. Get your feet back on the track!

Because I was sort of on autopilot -- I was racing a mile! -- I kept running, got on the track before I even though about it, and tried to catch back up to my group. My first priority was to get my feet back on the track so that I would only take three steps off the track, and in the video you can see that I basically cut off another runner in my attempt to jump back on the track at the first opportunity. As I was accelerating back up to speed, I was thinking that I didn't know how many steps off the track I had taken, but I was pretty sure it was more than three. (In fact, it was probably about eight.)

At that point, I just wanted the race to be over. I didn't really have my head in the game because I knew I was going to be disqualified, so I wasn't thinking about racing other people at all; I was just running as fast as I could.

I ended the seventh lap in 4:27. I instantly added 40 seconds and got 5:07. "Wow, I can still run a PR!" I kicked the last lap, but I wasn't really paying attention and I didn't even know, until I watched the video, that someone passed me at the line. (I did notice Yvonne taking a picture on the backstretch, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.) I was shocked to see 5:04 on the clock as I finished. I thought I would have lost a lot more time than that.

The first thing I did when I was done was to walk up to the officials and ask if I got disqualified. They didn't know, and they didn't even know who I should ask! Steve V. assured me that I wouldn't be disqualified, because I didn't gain an advantage. I was not as certain, because I knew I had taken more than three steps off of the track. After I took my spikes off, I walked up to the timing booth and asked them if I had gotten disqualified. They told me that no one had gotten disqualified in the whole meet so far! So that was a relief. And my coach told me that they would appeal it if I did end up being disqualified (which I never was).

Looking at the video, you can see that I lose about 10 meters from falling off the track. 10 meters is about two seconds, so I should have run at least 5:03. And if I had been with the pack and not distracted by imminent disqualification with two laps to go, I am confident that I would have raced the other runners, and at least tried to pass them all on the outside. I wouldn't have run under 5:00, but I think it's clear that my fitness is at 5:02-5:03 range (at least on BU's track). So I'm very happy with the race, and at least it has given me a good story to tell.


Wilesthing said...

Wow, great race and PR! You definitely didn't gain any advantage. From looking at it, I think you made a better attempt to get back on the track quickly than many people would have. It would have been easier for you to head a little more towards the turn but you came back onto the track and probably actually ran a little extra because of it. Staying focused is tough at times like that but it can also help I think. It gives you something extra to get fired up about. Didn't Lasse Viren once fall during a 10K WR?

Diana said...

Thanks, Bob! I agree, no advantage.

About a month ago, I volunteered as a track official at a high school track meet, and I was the one with the red/white flag who decided if runners stepped out of their lane. So I am currently very well-informed about the rules, which is why I darted so quickly back on the track.

In my case, it didn't cause me to get fired up; it distracted me in a negative way. Lasse Viren fell during the 1972 Olympic 10k, got up, and won the race and set a WR. But he said later that this just showed how much the WR could be improved, if he could set it despite falling (it didn't make him faster). Gammoudi was knocked down at the same time as Viren, and he didn't even get up!