Friday, December 12, 2014

Never say never: My second beer mile

At the start of this year, on my 47th birthday, I ran my first-ever beer mile. I ran it in 9:54, and my conclusion was that "if there's room for improvement, it's in the beer-drinking portion of the event. I'm not currently planning on doing another beer mile, but if I did, I'd definitely need to work on my beer-chugging skills."

Less than a week ago, I got an email from some friends who were planning another one. I guess I forgot how hard that first one was, because before I knew it I had committed to the race, which happened last night on the same course as the first one.

Soon I was Googling "best beer for beer mile" and "beer mile strategy," and found this article by the former record-holder with some good tips. The main one was to pick a beer that I liked. After ruling out a couple favorites that were below the requisite 5% alcohol content, I settled on New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale:

Boston Marathon Bottle Opener sold separately!

The bottle opener would prove to be a big key to my race! I also let the beer warm to about 55 degrees before running the race, again on Josh Harris's advice.

After a 2-mile warm-up, about 8 of us got our beer and walked in the darkness to the starting line on a greenway near town. My plan this time was to run a bit slower than last time, so I wouldn't be absolutely gasping for breath as I tried to chug my beers.

With little ceremony, the race started and I chugged beer #1, remembering to hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and trying to let the beer just slide down my throat. While I hadn't actually practiced beer-chugging, I did read some online advice suggesting this was the optimal angle. I don't think I got it perfect (actually, I know I didn't because I didn't approach the sub-10-second chugs of the record-breakers), but I definitely did much better than last time: 19 seconds for my first beer versus 29 last year.

I was third out of the gate and stayed in third as I tried to moderate my pace. I completed the first lap (really just an out-and-back) in 1:41. Garmin consistently measured my laps as 0.27 miles (despite using the same Garmin to chart the course at exactly 0.25 miles earlier that day), so my pace was either 6:19 or 6:44 depending on which Garmin measurement you believe. Either way, it was a little slower than planned, but I hoped to make up for it by drinking my beers faster. I wasn't breathing especially hard, and managed to get Beer 2 down in just two gulps. Beer Split 2 was 33 seconds (compared to 54 seconds last year). I was definitely making up some serious time!

Each subsequent lap went about the same, with the beers getting progressively tougher to swallow. I moved from third to second place, but couldn't catch the lead runner, a young guy I had never met, with a deadly-fast chug and some excellent speed as well. He finished first in 8:03, while I crossed the line in 8:41, a massive PR by a minute and 14 seconds! The chart below compares my two beer-mile efforts:

As you can see, even though I ran 28 seconds faster in January, I drank each beer an average of 27 seconds faster this time around; that's why I was able to set a 1:14 PR this time around! By slowing down on the runs just a bit, I made a massive improvement on my overall time. The only time I went all-out was on the final lap. I think the reason my final quarter-mile was slower this year is that I hadn't had as long of a break between Run 3 and 4 as last year. Also, last year, I was close to another runner and so had the opportunity to pass him in the final lap. This time I was running alone and didn't have as much incentive to go fast.

I'm not sure there's as much room for improvement in the future without a lot of time spent chugging beers in practice. I'm not opposed to drinking, but I prefer to sip my beverages, so there may not be another Beer Mile PR in my future. On the other hand, I've learned never to say "never" when it comes to running, so who knows?

The Garmin plot of yesterday's beer mile is below:

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