Race Report: Arnold Mills Four Miler

I put this race on my calendar because… well, why not run a race at sea level? The Arnold Mills Four Miler takes place in the small town of Cumberland, Rhode Island every fourth of July. It’s simple, it’s well run, and it’s close enough to my parents’ house, where I was visiting. I ran this race in 2007 and again in 2012, and it’s always fun to see where you stack up against your younger self on the same course.  In 2007 I made the mistake of going out way too fast and my whole race suffered for it.  Last year I ran this race in the rain, four months post-partum. Both times, my average pace was around 8:00 min/mile. I figured I could count on a major PR this time around. I figured wrong.

Although I had executed a few quality workouts in the weeks leading up to the race, and my legs were feeling fresh the day before, race day brought temps in the upper 80’s, sunny skies, and 85% humidity. And that was at 7am. The race didn’t start until 9. I went through my standard warm-up and knew that I wasn’t going to see the time I was hoping for (30 minutes or less), and that I had to put my expectations aside, and just run as hard as I could. Also, I made a landmark decision to ditch my short-sleeve technical t-shirt. It was one of my heavier weight shirts, which I’d never noticed before. But when the air feels like quicksand, you notice these things.

During my warm-up, I pulled my shirt up to expose my belly to the sticky air every 30 seconds or so and asked myself “Is my belly cooler now?” Even though I wanted very badly to believe it didn’t matter one way or the other, it did. So that’s how, for the first time in my post-baby life, I ended up running in public in just a sports bra and shorts. It was unfortunate that the bra I’d picked that morning was mint green and not a nipple camouflaging dark purple or gray, but it was fortunate that I didn’t bump into anyone who looked even vaguely familiar.

During the first mile, I stole glances at my Garmin every so often, and every time I looked down, I saw numbers I didn’t like. I was aiming to start out at about a 7:30 pace and descend from there, but I could hardly hold a 7:45 pace. Meanwhile, my breathing was more labored than I thought it should be this early in the race. The second mile brought more of the same, except this time I wasn’t looking at my Garmin too much. Miles three and four were punctuated by sprinklers and hoses set to mist, courtesy of the friendly locals who lived along the course. Normally, being sprayed with random water while I’m trying to run just annoys me, but on this course, where the heat threatened to melt me into the asphalt, the sprinklers could have been showering me with crisp hundred dollar bills and diamond earrings, it felt so good.

The final 800 meters or so found me competing against a ten year old boy. When he started to flag, I encouraged him. Normally I would have said “eat my dust” in my head to my competitor, but normally my competition isn’t an entire head shorter than me. Ultimately, I did come in ahead of him, but not by much.

My time was 30:46, which is a 7:41 pace. I would have expected to go faster, considering I recently ran a ten miler at altitude in about an eight minute pace, but under the circumstances, I know I put in a good effort. I ran the same race last year, but this time, I moved up from 183rd to 114th place overall, and from 27th female to to 16th female.

Post-race stupor
Wait a minute, I just rocked a sports bra in public AND I had a PR. Woot!