Tomorrow night I will be running in two events I've never done before: The 4x400 relay and the 5,000-meter track run. The Charlotte Running Club is hosting a track meet and as a newly-installed board member, I figure I should definitely show up and support the club. Even better, I've managed to convince a few friends from our local sub-group of the CRC, DART (the Davidson Area Running Team) to run the relay with me.
We're pretty much all newbies in the relay, so we looked to YouTube for advice and found this video:
(FF to 6:13 for the 4x400 information)
Basically the incoming runner holds the baton straight out in his right hand, and the outgoing runner grabs it with his left hand. We practiced the technique a few times and it seems to work okay.
That's the easy part. The hard part will be going 400 meters all-out. I have done 400s in workouts quite a bit but have never gotten very fast at them. I can still remember my high school cross-country buddy Josh Millard telling me that "anyone can run a 60-second 400," and I do recall hitting that pace...once...when I was 19 years old. Now, at age 47, that time seems like a bit of a stretch. Fortunately now I have the financial means to give myself every possible advantage, so I bought my first-ever pair of racing spikes, and tried them out at the track a couple weeks ago. They definitely gave me quite a bit more speed than just running in trainers or even racing flats. In the middle of a 12x400 workout, I was able to crank out a 68-second 400, even while slowing down a bit for the second half. So what am I capable of in a racing situation, properly warmed up but not tired? I'm thinking maybe a 63 or 62. 60 seconds might be possible but I just don't seem to have quite the foot speed for that.
I do think I'm fit enough to take a 400-meter run all-out the whole way. The real question is how to make my legs turn over faster. I haven't been doing a lot of track work lately because I'm mainly focused on the Pike's Peak Marathon in August, but I've tried a few techniques to go faster -- longer strides, shorter strides, more emphasis on the arms, and so on. The "technique" that seems to work the best, though, is just to tell myself to "run fast" and let my body take care of technique (or lack thereof). I think in the absence of a true middle-distance coach that's about the best I'll be able to do. Hopefully the adrenaline of the race will help me to "run faster" than I have since I was 19.
As for the 5,000, the big question has been which heat to run in. The meet will have an Open heat and a "fast" heat for runners who can do 17:59 or better. My road PR is 17:49, so arguably I should be in the fast heat. With a time so close to the cut-off, however, I'm not sure there will be anyone running close to my pace. On the other hand, there might not be anyone running my pace in the open heat either, so I've decided to run in the fast heat. Maybe I'll be able to keep up with some of the slightly "slower" runners and have a good day. I'd really like to at least match my road PR, which should be doable on a nice flat track.
To hit that pace, I'll just need to average 1:25 per lap, or 5:44 per mile. I think that's doable if I set my mind to it. I will set my watch to show the current lap time rather than pace per mile -- I've found the "pace" function is very inaccurate on the track. Then it's just a matter of going out and running. Wish me luck!