A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 19th Edition
365.52 miles raced in 2007
Race: Arlington Co-Op Downhill Mile
Place: Arlington, VA
Miles from home: 2
Course Difficulty: 1.5
Course Enjoyability: 10 out of 10
Weather: 100 friggin degrees
Finishers' Medal: N/A
Let me set the stage for this. (Come on, it’s a mile. I need some back story or the recap will be 87 words.) On Saturday I ran one of the tougher races of my life in the North Face 50k. On Sunday, knowing I was taking Monday off and my usually hard track workout was going to be replaced with this one mile race, I decided that I would not rest but put some miles in the morning. I got to bed early on Saturday and got up to run with my club. I did 8 miles with my buddy Tom (recovering from an injury) and we stopped 3 times (miles 2, 4 and 6) for water. At the 6th mile, if he had said “Let’s walk back” I would not have argued. I was exhausted. Not sore from the previous day’s race but flat out spent. I had less than nothing.
Monday was a day of complete rest as was Tuesday. No running at lunch and nothing but sitting at work. I had seen a flyer for the Downhill Mile a week earlier and thought: “Five bucks to run a race 2 miles from my house. I am there!” As I have mentioned repeatedly, I love running downhill. Even if I was exhausted and it was hot I knew I would have fun.
So Tuesday sped by at work and the next thing I knew it was time to run. With all kinds of planning for other races I didn’t even really check out where this race was, why it was a “Downhill Mile” or anything else about it. SO, not a Dane move. With a little time to kill I found a brief description of the race and its course. I quickly use a website to calculate the downhill grade of the course and literally laughed outloud. This was going to be interesting.
In addition, I saw there were seven (yes, 7) runners in this race last year. Here were their times:
1 Charlie Mercer 4:29
2 Ted Poulos 4:55
3 Peter Blank 5:25
4 Bob Weiner 5:43
5 James Scarborough 5:57
6 Jay Jacob Wind 7:03
7 Tim Ramsey 7:20
Now, I did not know who Charlie Mercer was but holy crap was that a fast time. I did know who Ted Poulos is and that made me think this might be a fun race. Ted is a local legend and a world-record holder for the most races run in a year. If I recall correctly, it is 222. Normally, streaks and records where someone simply has done a great deal of something completely underwhelm me. But Ted, who I think is in his mid-40s, continues to pump out VERY quality races at every race he runs (e.g., earlier this year when I ran a 5k a week and a half after my 100 miler, I took 3rd. Ted beat me by a minute and won). So I figured if Ted could go sub-5, so could I. I was hoping if he showed I would just stay with him and surge at the end.
It took me a little while to find the tiny entrance to the Donaldson Run Trail which was the start of the mile. Only one person awaited me; one of the race directors. Hmmm, perhaps I was running this puppy solo. It did not seem inconceivable since even at 7 PM the temperature was still 100 degrees. Dear lord.
Medium story short, a few minutes after 7 PM, there were 5 of us ready to toe the line. Included in the mix was no Ted Poulos, but last year’s winner Charlie Mercer, me, Jay Jacob Wind, James Scarborough and Tim Ramsey. Tim had actually ran in a local race called the Snowflake 5k in December which helped raise money for Fiddy2 (yep, remember that ole fundraiser I was doing for L’Arche Mobile). Charlie joked that he was supposed to be the only young guy there (everyone else was in their late 40s or into their 50s) and said he did not want the competition. I told him I was still exhausted from my 50k and would not be a threat. His eyebrows raised and he told me he ran the 10k at the same locale on the same day and was shocked I was still standing after the race.
The starter said go and away we went. There was only one clock (at the finish), no markers of any sort, and the dunderhead that I am, well, I forgot my watch. So I just decided to go with all I had. Down a 50 meter path we took and then immediately began what I can only described as an absolute controlled fall for the remainder of the mile. The only thing that kept us from approaching light-speed were the hairpin turns we encountered in the first quarter-mile or so. While leading at first, I soon lost the overall position about a 1/3 of the way through to Charlie who obviously knew the course better than I.
I could only guess what speed we were running at but I knew it was ridiculously fast. More than once I had a feeling I might just fall ass over tincups and break my neck. The race course left the trail for once second and quickly crossed one street and then another. Both neighborhood streets with little traffic, I am pretty sure I could not have stopped for a car if I had needed to do so.
Cutting the corners as sharply as I could and trying to keep Charlie in site for a last second push to possibly win the event, I all of a sudden noticed that I was not only completely bereft of energy but also there was the familiar red glow of a ticking clock ahead of me. No time (or distance, rather) left to catch Charlie I simply coasted in for second place overall.
...in a time of 4:10. HOLY CRAP.
Charlie had ran a 3:53 and was just standing there dumbfounded. We immediately began to discount the course and thought there was no possible way it was correct. I asked Charlie if it was the same course he ran last year and he nodded. “Well, if it was right last year I doubt the Earth moved that much this year to discredit it!” I said. He nodded his head again and said, “No one was pushing me last year and I ran a 4:29. It only makes sense that with your quick start you made me run even harder.”
When I got home, the first thing I did was check the map provided. Click HERE to see it. Then I went to runningahead.com and recreated it myself. Not only did it mirror the amount listed (a solid mile on the nose) I utilized the elevation chat on this website to see what sort of loss we had on this course. Get ready: ~250 feet in a mile! I am sure one of my loyal readers knows of some mathematical equation which can estimate what a 250 foot drop (and virtually not a foot of gain) does to a person’s all-out mile time. So, please, if you know or care to figure out, let me know.
The final results for the race:
(1) Charlie Mercer, Arlington VA, 3:53
(2) Dane Rauschenberg, Arlington VA, 4:10
(3) James Scarborough, McLean VA, 5:25
(4) Jacob Wind, Arlington VA, 6:11
(5) Tim Ramsey, Alexandria VA, 6:49
Without a doubt, I am not normally capable of a 4:10 mile. Not even close. Then again, running 2 days after a brutal 50k in 100 degree temperature has to even it out a smidgen right?
Regardless, I am imploring them to hold this race again and hold it soon. If you join the Arlington Co-Op for $10 the race costs $1. If and when it is run again, come join me. Noting helps the ego quite like flying like the wind.
ADDENDUM: As always, I can count on my good friends to find info for me quicker than I can ever hope for. An article about the effect uphill and downhill grades can be found HERE.
So if you take my fastest (proven) mile of 5:00 by the formula presented in the article, I should have only run a 4:33. So either the course was short (I really do not think it was) or I REALLY love a downhill.