New PR: I broke 6 minutes in the mile

As I’ve written here before, I started running as an adult. I have zero athletic background and never participated in any sports as a kid. Part of that was lack of interest — I preferred to spend my free time reading (and I still love to read.) And part of it was, honestly, lack of talent. I sucked at team sports and was always picked last in gym class when it was time to play volleyball or basketball or whatever kind of ball. 

Sports were just not my jam. 

And when I did start running races about eight years ago, my goal was never really to be “fast.” I just wanted to have fun with it. But then I started winning age group awards in races and realized I was actually a decent runner. I was more surprised than anyone, but it made me love the sport even more.

Fast forward to May 2020, just about two months before my 40th birthday. I did something I truly thought was beyond my capabilities and ran a sub-6 minute mile — 5:56 to be exact. 

When my watch beeped, I screamed and yelled out a “holy *$$#!” (sorry to my neighbors). For a brief second, I wondered whether my Garmin was broken. A 5:xx mile? Me?! Only really fast people can run a mile that begins with a 5. 

I hadn’t been training to PR the mile or anything. In fact, I haven’t done any speedwork in more than two months, stopping once my spring marathons got canceled. That said, I haven’t been really running “easy,” either. When I was training for Coastal Delaware, I was conscious of not running my long runs too fast and keeping the easy days easy. Now that I’m not training for anything, all that is out the window and I just run what I feel like running. These days, my pace tends to vary between the 7:50s and the 8:20s. The paces don’t feel difficult, but I know they aren’t my true easy pace, either, which would be probably around 8:45-9:00.

That said, maybe this strategy is working for me, at least for shorter distances. I ran a 21:35 a few weeks ago in the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, and now I’ve had this huge breakthrough in the mile. 

It happened at the beginning of my fourth sprint duathlon in Rip It Events’ V5 Virtual Duathlon series. For the sprint, you have to run one mile, bike 10 miles and then run two more miles. I decided at the beginning of the series that I was going to try to go all out with the beginning mile just to see how fast I could do it. 

I ran the Market Street Mile in Frederick last September in 6:11, and was insanely proud of it (and thought it was insanely hard). I hadn’t raced a mile since then, so when I ran a 6:25 mile in my first duathlon, I was happy with it. The following week, for my second duathlon, I ran a 6:11. Then for my third duathlon, I ran a 6:14.

Two weekends ago, it was hot and I honestly wasn’t sure I had it in me to push really hard, so I told myself to just do my best. I started at my house and set off on the one-mile loop around my neighborhood that I’ve been running. 

The mile itself was, of course, a blur. It hurt. I honestly don’t really remember any meaningful details, though at one point I glanced at my watch and saw I was running a 5:40 pace and thought “whoa that’s really fast.” Then it was over. And I saw the final time on my watch. 5:56! (I stopped my watch at 1.01 miles, so it read 5:59, which was the time I submitted for that portion of that virtual duathlon.) 

Even though this was not part of a standalone mile race, I’m still counting it as a mile PR — I mean, it is the fastest I’ve ever run the mile! That said, I would still like to see what I could do in a real mile race, whenever we have those again. The 2020 Market Street Mile is still scheduled to happen in September, but I suspect it will be canceled like everything else this year.   

I’m proud of myself for being able to go as hard as I did even though I wasn’t at a real race. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for when races do come back — whenever that is!    

5 duathlons in 5 days: My experiencing racing virtual duathlons

About six years ago, my now-husband and parents teamed up to buy me a Jamis hybrid bike for my birthday. I love to ride it, but I find that running takes up so much of my time (especially when I am marathon training) that I don’t take it out as much as I should or would like to. 

That’s changed over the past few weeks as I took on Rip It Events’ V5 — 5 Virtual Duathlons series, and raced five virtual run-bike-runs in five days. I wrapped up the challenge today after five weeks — I did one duathlon every weekend and opted for the sprint version (1 mile run, 10 mile bike ride, 2 mile run) for the first four duathlons, then bumped up to the intermediate version (2 mile run, 20 mile bike ride, 4 mile run) for the last one. Woo, that was tough! It’s been years since I’ve ridden my bike that far.

It was a ton of fun and reminded me that when things get back to “normal,” I’d like to start signing up for more duathlons. Before this series, I did Rip It’s now-defunct Maryland Duathlon in 2017 and 2018. It always was held the day I left for Rehoboth for vacation, and honestly it was a struggle to wake up before the sun, drive an hour to do the race, race, and then drive to the beach. (In 2017, I stupidly went to an Orioles game the night before the race and got about two hours of sleep! I don’t know how I managed.) So last year, I decided not to do it, and unfortunately that was the last year for the race. 

Duathlons are definitely a different kind of challenge than running. While I love to ride my bike, I am not fast on it, and part of that is because I do fear crashing and hurting myself. (You don’t have to worry about that with running!) Aside from that, doing the last run after getting off the bike is HARD — my legs always feel like Jello. (How do my friends who race Ironman triathlons do it?) 

I also decided to push myself with the sprint duathlons and run the one mile at the beginning as an all-out effort to see what I could do. I’ve only raced the mile once, and that was last September when I did the Market Street Mile in Frederick in 6:11. I haven’t been doing any real speedwork lately, so imagine my shock when last weekend, in my fourth Du, I actually broke six minutes in the mile and ran a 5:56. I truly did not think I was capable of that. I’ll write a blog post on that in a few days, but needless to say, I was so excited. 

I believe I completed all of my sprints in around an hour and 10 minutes, and last week’s duathlon with the mile PR was right around an hour and five minutes. Today’s intermediate effort took me about two and a half hours to complete. I’ve been treating other virtual races, including Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K, as real races in that I am waking up early like I would for a real race and even wearing race bibs. I didn’t do that with the duathlons, mostly because I don’t like to wake up early and also because I didn’t necessarily have goal times in mind for these races. As I am not an experienced duathlete (yet?!), simply completing them was the challenge.

And it sure was a fun one! I truly looked forward to “du”-ing each one, so thank you again to Rip It Events with coming up with such fun and creative virtual events in these bizarre times.

Proceeds from the race also benefited Food It Forward, a collaboration between a small group of restaurants to drive business, save restaurant jobs and provide food to those in need throughout the pandemic.

In fact, I enjoyed these duathlons so much that I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon’s virtual Quantico Duathlon (originally supposed to be a triathlon that obviously got canceled). I have until the end of August to complete it, and I may save it for July 26. That’s two days before my 40th birthday, and the half marathon I was scheduled to run that day got canceled, so this might be a good substitute. If it’s not 100 degrees, I guess.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races.