I don’t usually write race re-caps because I tend to think they’re a little boring and self indulgent, but I will make an exception for the one I ran last week. As the former women’s Beer Mile world record holder, I was invited down to Austin, Tx to compete in the World Championships. Although I had been in Beer Mile retirement for the past 15+ years, I decided to have some fun and try my best at making a convincing come-back. I did hold out a fair bit of hope that I could place well. I’ve kept up with running competitively, and although I’ve had my ups and downs, I currently feel like I’m about as fast a runner as I was 15 years ago. My only worry was the beer drinking. I do still enjoy beer, but I like to sip one or two in an evening. Let’s just say that in my 20’s my beer drinking was a little less civilized. However, people who are in the know say there is an “X” factor to good Beer Milers – they’re not always the fastest runners or chuggers, but together they can be the best. Physically, I look and feel similar to how I did 15 years ago, so whatever that “X” factor is, I should still have it.
The entire experience was amazing. As my friend (former Queen’s track buddy Suzy G) who accompanied me down said: “we played hooky from life for three days”. The organization and professionalism by Flotrack, the event organizers, was incredible. I was picked up at the airport, taken to my hotel, and then pointed in the direction of one of the nicest running trails I’ve run.
I had meant to go for a little “shake-out” jog but ended up going for over an hour because I was loving it and for once didn’t have to get back for chores or responsibilities.
Back at the hotel I met up with Jim Finlayson (also a former Beer Mile world record holder from Canada – same era as me but a more decorated runner – past and present). We went out for dinner and discussed strategy. This was the menu:
We each had a pint with our meal and then Jim suggested each chugging a quick beer. I wasn’t sure about having TWO BEERS the night before the Beer Mile, but he likened it to running a few 400’s at race pace – just to sharpen up. Made sense. We timed each other and were both feeling confident with our chugging abilities.
Suzy G arrived later and we explored Austin. A late night for me, but for once I could sleep in! This was feeling very indulgent.
The next day was race day. Suzy and I went for a little shake-out jog in the morning (this time really keeping it to 30 minutes). Then we had the athlete’s technical meeting. The attention to detail was astounding – everything was taken care of for us, right down to the exact temperature we wanted for our beer at the start – to the degree!
We had been told the venue would be at an F1 race track – The Circuit of the Americas. This was amazing as I’ve never been to an F1 track, let alone raced on one!
The event itself was pretty surreal. I’ve never raced at a large international level event with live broadcasting before, so I got a taste of what it’s like to be an elite track athlete. The elites had our own warm-up area, and everyone was getting into real race-prep mode. Stretching, doing drills, listening to music, not making eye contact. And every now and then some of us were pulled aside to do an interview. It was quite intense. Then we were marshaled to the start and it all unfolded from there.
When the gun went off I started into my first beer and I just felt that the taste was not right. It wasn’t a carbonation or stomach capacity issue – I just wasn’t prepared for the taste of that specific beer. (I know – how do you make a rookie mistake like that after 20 years?!) I was off the pace of the leaders from the beginning. I stayed consistent and ran well – I didn’t have any big pauses, but my beers were just consistently about 5-10 seconds too slow. I was a tad disappointed in myself, but I guess I had been relying on a magic “X” factor which had been lying dormant for 15 years.
I know the Beer Mile is a strange event. There will always be people who don’t approve of the drinking aspect. For me it was just something we did in university to take some of the seriousness out of our training and racing. It was our time to relax and have fun, but we were incapable of not adding an element of competition to anything. We are of a breed who were born to compete. We can’t help ourselves. We want to win – even if it’s winning the party. We had some other strange running-related competitions back then: Naked Run, Timbit Challenge, Earl St. Mile, Slow-Twitch Decathlon. I wonder if any of them will ever develop into World Championship events? 😉