Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The State Street Mile Race Report

The mile is a special race.  It's not that common to run one on the road instead of the track.  The State Street Mile is even more special than the typical road mile: it is point to point on a gentle downhill slope, and there's a Starbucks at the finish line.  The State Street Mile course covers several blocks of Santa Barbara's popular and beautiful downtown area and is lined with spectators, both those who arrived to watch the race and those who were just lucky and happened to be there to watch the morning's waves of action.
Photo by Mark Polomski - 50 - 59 Race (John on the Right)

I'm not typically like this, but during the week prior to this race I spent time locating my favorite items of running clothes to wear.  Most of the time I don't give much thought to what I wear, I just make sure it is comfortable and appropriate for the conditions, but this past week in my mounting nervousness, I wanted everything the the State Street Mile to be perfect.  After all, I have waited three years to do this race, having to sit out the first two because of injury.  Finally, finally I get to run this downhill mile through paradise, end at Starbucks, kiss my husband and share a 5 shot Americano with him.  So I needed my favorite shorts, which required a load of laundry to be run.  I pulled out a very old running top the color of red because "red" signifies fire, passion, speed, determination, focus.  It was what I wore 3 years ago at my last road mile.  Lastly I needed my favorite socks.  I sifted through my over packed sock drawer and couldn't readily find them.  Hmmm.  Let's try that again.  I pulled out every pair of socks in the drawer and no fav's to be found.  Nope, not in the dirty clothes either.  Well, there's only one reasonable explanation.  John took them.  He must have thought they were his.  After all it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.  I went through his drawer and nothing.  I looked in my backpack and in my running shoes and cycling shoes.  Not to be found.  So the night before the race, as I laid everything out for the morning, I reluctantly went through my sock drawer to find a worthy runner-up pair.  I chose some greenies to match my Newtons but was unsettled about the whereabouts of my favorite socks.

Race day was nice.  It was not an early morning rise because John's and my races were middle morning and we had merely to walk 4 blocks from our house to the start line, so it was a nice casual morning of getting ready, stretching, stretching, and more stretching.  I fretted one last time over my lost socks and then let that go in favor of focusing on the crushing competition I was likely to face.  We placed our entries weeks earlier and when I registered I had a choice I needed to make.  Was I going to enter the Open Elite race, or the Master's Elite race.  What I had noticed from looking at previous results, is the Master's Elite race lacked comparable competition.  The women who entered the Master's race were wonderful, strong, fast women, but I could see that my mile time was likely to be much faster than what had been posted by that group in the past.  If I entered the Master's race, would I run as fast if I had no one to puch me?  Then with the Open Elite race, the finishing times and participants varied greatly from year to year.  There may be a lot of super fast women or there may be a few super fast women.  But if I entered that race, knowing of course I was not likely to win, I might run faster against the competition and post a better time.  Oh the dilemma.  What was more important, to run the fastest time possible but finish well off the leaders, or to win?  I decided therefore to enter myself in the Open Elite.  It's one of those moments; you make your selection, check the box, pay the fee, hit submit and then immediately regret it.

I was not privy to information about who had entered the elite mile this year but not long after I arrived to watch the age groupers start, I sat and talked with a fellow elitists who began rattling off names and abilities of the elite entrants.  What????  How many are qualified for Olympic Trials? How many 22 year olds?  Or 25 year olds?  Decades younger than me?  She ran a recent sub 17, she runs a 2:16 half.  My jaw dropped and I thought, "Do I really belong in that race?"  After all, the point of having a Master's Elite mile is so the Masters can still compete at a competitive level yet against those who are at least dealing with the same age disadvantage. 

Ponder, ponder, ponder.  Should I switch my race?  I really didn't think about it for too long before I went over to the registration table and asked if I could change races.  They allowed it and I decided that I would quietly slip out of that elite category.  All things considered, I'm glad I did, but the question of whether I would have had a faster race as an elite still hangs in the air.  Who knows. 

It was time to slip on my racing flats.  With my runner-up socks already on my feet (who wants to wear runner-up socks in a race, really), I pulled out my lime green Newtons.  Ooops.  What's this, ha, my favorite socks stuck inside.  The one place I didn't check :)  With a quick switch of my socks I began my last minute preparation for my race, clad in my favorite running clothes all the way down to my feet.

Photo by Mark Polomski
There were only 4 competitors in my race and I had an immediate sense that I may be running this one alone and paced only against myself.  I would then have only my 1/4 mile splits to rely on.  I was nervous on the line and the pause between "Take your mark" and the whistle seemed an eternity.  Shoot, I don't want to false start.  Finally, off went the starters whistle and off went the masters.  I pushed into what I thought was a good pace immediately and felt nor heard anyone near me.  Focused ahead and watching for each 1/4 mile marker I prepared to gut it out as best I could.  The timers did not hear the starter's whistle so there was a bit of an issue with the splits - this is not good, and so I wasn't sure if they were reliable.  But you have to go with what you have so I simply pushed it regardless of the split.  Prior to the brain fade oxygen debt that eventually set in, I listened to the spectators' cheers and people calling out for me to run faster.  I think my eyes must have been as big as quarters as I passed a half mile in under 5 minute pace and feeling like I can surely keep this pace if not increase it.  I was feeling good about a sub-5 minute finish.  There did however come a time when I basically could no longer feel my legs.  I was pushing against nothing in particular with no one in my sites and no one on my shoulder but I could see the balloons arched over the finish line (the finish line which ended at the Starbucks) and I could still make out random voices calling out, willing me along.  It had been announced at some point as I approached the finish that the course record may be broken today.  The course record.  I hadn't even considered that.  It stood at 5:09 up to today.  When the numbers on the clock finally came into focus I saw 4:50's ticking away.  Wait, I need at least one of you to stay.  I'll even take 4:59.  But I saw 4:59 tick into 5:00 and I slipped in a moment later in 5:03.  I have to be honest.  Though I was glad to be done, glad I could take a moment to regain oxygen in my extremities, glad to have finished first, so glad for the support and the congratulations that showered out of the sky, I was yet disappointed in that finishing time.  It was then that Mike, the Newspress reporter began asking me questions about breaking the course record.  He asked if I expected to break it.  Heck, I hadn't even expected really to be in this race, so I hadn't given it any thought at all.  What began to occur to me was that a record being broken makes the race bigger than just today.  No woman over 40 had ever run the State Street Mile faster than I did, and and and, I set a mark that I and others can try to overtake in the future.  I like the idea of records.  Now I have a clear goal for next year.  I love being a master runner.
Photo by Mark Polomski
It was a great day for the Abrami family.  John surpassed his expectations and ran to a closely contested 3rd place finish among men in his age group.  His time of 5:08 (5:10 was the official time but it is inaccurate as I watched carefully as he crossed in 5:08) was only 6 seconds off the first  place finisher.  We were both happy with our races and even happier to grab a Starbucks Americano (Venti with 5 shots of espresso) and walk back home.

Santa Barbara is a great place to run and race.  It was great to get a chance to watch others run in their races and to cheer them on as they did me.  There were epic performances today.  Many age group records were surpassed on this cool, calm, overcast Sunday.  The elite races were phenomenal and there were excellent performances by local runners who ran in those elite races.  The race itself is well attended, well supported and well organized.  Thank you to all.


  1. Great race and great writing!! So glad to talk with you that morning. Funny husband and I live 4 blocks away from the start also!!!


  2. Cindy:

    We enjoyed your State Street Mile blog; check out Bring Back the Mile. BTW, we are based in Santa Barbara too!

    Ryan Lamppa, Founder
    Bring Back the Mile!
    “America’s Distance”™

    Elevate! Celebrate!

  3. Wow! Congrats Cindy. I'm really proud. I couldn't come within ten seconds of your time :)

  4. Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..

    Sold on racing