Help! I Need Advice for this Weekend’s Race!

Wisconson’s beautiful capitol.

On Sunday I am running the Capitol Mile.  It is a mile race around the beautiful capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.  Despite my fixation on the marathon, I also LOVE getting my speed on and racing the mile every summer.  In fact, my boys and I have participated and/or trained for this race every year since 2006.*

We – along with several good friends – have been training for the Capitol Mile for the last 6 weeks with the Madison Fleet Feet Miler in Training.  Every Tuesday night we meet up with our group at the track to get worked over by our two coaches.  Unfortunately it has been a brutal training season with the heat.  Due to cancellations and unexpected life craziness, the boys and I have only been able to run 2 of our workouts on the track with the group so far.   Unfortunately, we just received word that tonight’s workout (our last one) is cancelled too due to the extreme predicted temps.  That means I will be up and at ’em bright and early doing my workout on my own tomorrow (well, hopefully with my friend Michelle too).  Despite the heat and other set backs, I have worked hard to make sure to get all of workouts in.  I will be ready to race on Sunday!

With the race right around the corner, however, I have a dilemma and I am hoping that you will provide me with some advice.  That’s right Salty readers, I need your help!

The race is run in several different heats.  Every 15 minutes, a different group takes off.  This is a lot of fun because it is a series of mini races and we can cheer everyone else on.  Without a doubt, this race is one of my favorite events of the year to participate in and spectate.   This year, the schedule is as follows:

1:00 Registration begins
2:00 Walk, led by the Achilles Track Club for athletes with disabilities
2:45 Mile Walk Awards
3:00 Kids Dash
3:15 Fast Race – Females
3:30 Fast Race – Males
3:45 Youth Girls Mile Run
4:00 Youth Boys Mile Run
4:15 Open Women’s Mile Run
4:30 Open Men’s Mile Run
4:45 Masters Men and Women Mile Run
5:00 Capitol Mile Awards and Door Prize Drawing

The race is 1.75 laps around the capitol square.  The course starts out with a slight decline, turns into a decently fast decline, straightaway, decent uphill (a real killer if you start too fast), then downhill to flat finish.

My problem is I don’t know which heat I should run in.  Typically I run in the Open Women’s  heat, but this year they have a new seeding/heat for “Fast Race – Females.”  The seed time is 6:15.

Capitol Mile 2007 – I won $!

My goal is under that – whether realistic or not – but really, unless I go out WAY too fast and botch my race (which I do not plan to do), I should be at or below 6:15.  Over the past 6 years I have been between 5:58 and 6:21.  My 6:21 was the year I went out at a 5:40 pace through the first quarter and burned myself in the second half.

Here is where my thoughts are:

I want to go out in the fast group because:

  • it is the fast group of course!!
  • it will give me more competition

However, I am thinking that maybe I should stick with the open group because:

  • I won’t be as likely to go out too fast
  • I won’t come in last (I know that shouldn’t matter – but it does)

I realize either could work, and I am leaning toward the fast group (even if I do come in last), but I worry I will go out too fast.  But in a race like this, competition is good.  If all the sub-6:15 ladies are out, what good is it to race in the front of the pack with no one pushing you?!

I don’t know.  I was going to ask my coaches and fellow Capitol Milers but I won’t see them tonight now that our workout is cancelled.  So I would really appreciate your input!  What would you do?  This race is one of my big ones and I’d love your advice!


* Last year I did Tough Mudder and there is no way I could have run a mile – let alone race it – the next day, but my boys ran it!

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. You know I’m not a “runner” but I would say chose the race that gives you the most challenge. That way no matter how you finish (first, last or somewhere in between) you will know you did your best given your training, competition and weather. Did that help?? (BTW it sounds like that would be the Fast Race) 😀

  2. I say go for the fast race for several reasons:

    1. Then you won’t be antsy and worried about your race while watching the boys and won’t have to rush to the starting line while they’re finishing.

    2. You have been at this long enough to behave yourself and not go out like a maniac.

    3. Being last or close to last in a fast race might pull you along to a faster time than you’d otherwise run.

    4. It’s where you belong! You are so a sub-6:15 miler!

    So that’s why my vote is to do the faster race 🙂

  3. Thanks ladies! I really appreciate your opinions. Salty, I hope you are right with #2 as that is what I am most afraid of. 🙂 If have gone out like a maniac in this race before.

    If I am being totally honest, I admit I feel weird about running in the fast heat because they used to have “elite” heats in this race and it seems like this is their way of bringing that back. While I am a crazy driven runner and a solid age grouper, I am far from elite. So it just seems a little wrong for me to line up with the 4:xx ladies (if they show up – you never know).

    1. It’s not that crazy. At most you’d be a minute behind the winner. Think about how far back the open last-placer will be from the winner! Much further back than that. Worst case you do go out too fast. Oops. You grit your teeth and grind out the last 800. But you won’t! Maybe practice the pace you want to go out in a few strides tomorrow or something just to nail it down and give yourself a comfort level. You got this!

      1. PS and remember it’s better to go out a little too slow than too fast so that should help you too. You’re going to do great!!!

        1. Thank you! I really appreciate your encouragement. I feel like an old pro at the marathon, but the mile still scares me. 🙂 Fortunately our next workout is right around mile pace, so hopefully that will give me some comfort come race day. It is just hard NOT to go out fast when it is downhill and race adrenaline is pumping. I will not go out too fast, I will not go out too fast, I will not go out too fast….

          1. Keep in mind the only time I’ve “Raced” a mile (was a TT) I went out in 76 for the first lap. Oopsy! Let’s just say that was my fastest lap (by a TON!) Haha. It is hard not to do, but if you do it you’ll survive and probably won’t do it as bad as if it was the first time you were racing the mile. Go for it!

  4. Chiming in late to agree with everyone else and say, go with the fasties! It does sound like it would better for you logistically, but also, generally people and teams tend to rise to the level of their competition. I think if you go with the fast heat, those ladies will push you to a great time!

  5. Thanks so much to all of you who chimed in here and on Facebook! I guess it is unanimous I should jump into the fast race – so that is what I am going to do! Wish me swift and fleet feet on Sunday! I’ll let you all know how it goes.

  6. Go with the fast start. Stick to your goal, chat up some of the other women and see if they have a similar goal or if they know someone at the start that should be in your range. Use this as an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and get a few more seconds out of yourself than you would otherwise. Keep your head up, keep focused, and keep your eyes on whatever shoulder blade is in front of you and just keep thinking about reeling them in.

    Even if you are last, it’s ok, because they have to set the standard somewhere, and you are faster than the standard. You deserve the fast start. If there were no 6 minute milers in the race the 5 minute milers wouldn’t look very impressive now would they 🙂 Sometimes it’s better to be on the slow end of fast than the fast end of slow! Go out there and kick butt!