First race for me since 2013. It felt good to dip my toes back into the racing scene.
I decided last week to run this race as I have been feeling pretty good in training recently and I wanted to test myself to see where my fitness is at. My expectations based upon recent workouts was that I had 22:30-22:40 fitness in me, and that there was a possibility that I could go faster. Deep down I told myself that I would like to run sub 22:00, but I didn't think that it was likely when considering some of my recent workouts, and my inability to run sub 6:00 pace on 20-25 minute tempo runs over rolling terrain.
I warmed up for 2 miles, and ran a few strides before the race started. When the gun went off I shot to the front, surprised that no one else was in front of me. It didn't take long before Dave Taylor and another guy both went by me. The pace felt unsustainable so I tried to relax and drop back into the pack. This worked pretty well for me over the rest of the first mile as I felt relaxed despite being at the front of the race. The pack and I passed both Dave and the other leader shortly before the mile mark. I hit the official mile mark in 5:17 feeling relaxed, which shocked me considering that just last Saturday I was only able to run 5:06.5 for an all out mile on the track (I found out afterwards that the mile marker was short).
During the second mile the pack stayed together initially until shortly before the 1.5 mile mark one runner made a move and gapped the rest of the pack. Dustin Bybee started to move up shortly thereafter, and misjudging my ability to maintain pace for 4 miles I made the decision to try and go with him. I stayed with Dustin initially and hit the official 2 mile marker (also short?) in 10:40 (5:23). Unfortunately by this point in time I was starting to feel the pace and by 2.25 miles Dustin had gapped me.
I turned the corner onto Center street just before 2.5 miles and really started to struggle over the next half mile as there was a solid headwind (maybe 10-12 mph?) that I had to run into (on the first loop I was able to draft off other runners so the wind didn't really affect me early on). As I ran on Center street I could tell that the pack (4 guys) was catching back up to me, and by about 2.75 miles they had caught me and proceeded to quickly leave me behind.
I hit the official 3 mile mark in 16:29 (5:49... ouch! Not sure what it would have been with correct measurements), and realized that my chances at breaking the 22:00 barrier were slipping away unless I picked up the pace over the last mile. Just past the 3 mile mark one of the runners in the pack stepped off the course as he was just there to get in a workout, putting me in 6th place where I ultimately finished.
The pack finally started to stretch out at this point but all three of the remaining runners continued to pull away from me. I tried to focus on maintaining my own pace that way I could hopefully stop the gap from growing. Coming into the race I had a goal of kicking hard to finish the race as I feel like I frequently give up a little bit mentally when it comes time to kick. I was thinking about this as I turned onto 400 South for the last time with a half mile to go in the race, and I decided to start my kick as I made the final turn with about 400 meters left in the race. At that point I really started to push. I wanted to feel my legs give out on me a little, and with maybe 200 meters left I started to feel that. I realized that not only was the gap between me and 5 place no longer getting bigger, but I was actually starting to close on him a little (he still beat me by about 10 seconds, but I will take the little victories wherever I can get them). I continued to push the pace towards the finish as I really wanted to make sure that I got under the 22:00 barrier.
I crossed the line with a time of 21:54.7 and to be honest wasn't really sure what to think. I finished 30-40 seconds faster than I thought I was capable of running, and I was exstatic that I had run so well, but wished that I could have held on a little better during the third mile. Thinking on things now I am really pleased with the progress that I have made over the last few months. To be in the mix running with "fast" guys again is invigorating, and it leaves me hungry for more. I am pleased that I was able to run a strong final mile despite the mile 3 slowdown, and I am excited to see what even greater fitness brings me in the future.
I won a turkey for winning my age group, so that was nice. Hopefully next year I will be able to contend for the overall win rather than the age group win.