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Yeah, that’s a nice improvement for two weeks. I’d like to claim I’m in that much better shape, but actually, it’s just more aggressive racing.

Last time I wrote that I “fell asleep” a bit in the second kilometer. I was determined not to let that happen this time. My race strategy was to get out well (i.e. stay in contact with a pack that was moving quickly,) hit the second K hard, and then hang on. I lined up on the outside with Emily Raymond, jumped off the line well, and found relatively few people in front of me when we reached the backstretch. A was at the bottom of the backstretch with her camera and one of her runners, and though I didn’t hear her on this lap I did on most others. The pack strung out very quickly, and I was able to settle in right behind one fast-moving woman A had pointed out earlier, a recent Colby grad. (Aside: two weeks ago, all the women were in the third and slowest heat with me. This week, there was a slower heat behind us, and there was a former Irish Olympian, Marie Davenport, in the second heat.)

It turned out that she was on her way to a 9:47, and the laps she dragged me through were some of the fastest I ran. I don’t remember all the splits—the first one was something ungodly like 37—but I do remember hearing A calling, “Settle in, now,” by the third or fourth lap, and I suspected that was coaching shorthand for, “Let go or you will wind up as a little stub of ash in a pool of cooling tallow.” So I let go. I must have done this before the K split, which I reached in 3:19, a whisker under 10:00 pace.

Fortunately, I was caught almost immediately by a GBTC woman (I heard cheering for “Allison” which I assume was her,) so I latched right on, eyes on her ponytail. (If you look at someone’s heels, you fall back; if you look at their head, you keep up. The mental tricks we play!) Ryan was at the top of the backstretch and I could tell from his calls that Christy was close behind me, and hitting just about the splits I wanted, so I focused on keeping her behind me.

Despite this fast start, I stuck to the plan and pushed hard for the second K, mostly staying with this little pack of women. Tom Derderian was on the corner just past the starting line, and each lap he would encourage Allison and Emily (now back up behind me as well,) and after a few laps he started adding me in to the litany. (I wonder what Allison and Emily thought of that.) I hit the second k split right on pace, 3:25 (6:44 total at that point, so I was actually a bit more than five seconds ahead of schedule. I hit my watch at these splits, but I didn’t look at it, so I didn’t know where I was.)

A few things happened in here, and I don’t really remember the order. One, Allison in front of me started to fade, or I got aggressive, and I moved out to pass her. This worked fairly well, but within a lap, Emily overtook me and led Christy and Allison by as well. I tried to hang on to them, but at some point in here I ran my slowest lap of the race—A reported afterward that I hit 43 in here. I heard her warn me that I was slowing down, or maybe she just said I was slow: same thing. So Emily and Christy pretty much dropped me, and I was out on my own. I’d been on my toes for the whole race, and I was feeling a hot spot on the ball of my right foot.

(“On my toes” doesn’t actually mean on tiptoes, like a dancer; it means I first strike with the ball of my foot, on the spike plate, take my full weight by loading my calf and achilles, then push off without touching with my heel. In flats, in training or a road race, I’ll strike with my heel first, rolling to my toes as I load my calf for push-off. Some lucky and gifted runners forefoot-strike all the time; I am not one of them. This hot spot turned out to be a blister about the size and shape of a quarter and a dime laid next to each other.)

Still, the laps-remaining counter was showing encouragingly low numbers, so I managed to dig back in. Two things kept me focused: the big clock running on the backstretch, which showed me that I had a good shot at meeting or beating 10:15, and a few other runners in front of me. One of them was a woman I was lapping, I think one of very few (two?) I lapped in this race. I caught up to a male in the last lap but couldn’t pull up on his shoulder. I don’t think I had much of a kick; I couldn’t increase my turnover, but A says I picked up well in the last laps. I finished the third K in 3:29.9, my slowest and almost enough to erase that five-second lead I’d had at 2k. My watch says 10:14.6, but I’m guessing the official time will be 10:15 low; another runner training with our group (who ran 9:03 or so in the first heat) said that’s what he saw on the clock when I crossed.

Odds are pretty good I’ll do one more 3,000m race this winter, but I’ll explain that later. After the last race, I knew smarter racing would get me a good time gain, and it did today; now, a slightly slower start might get me a faster closing K and chip a few more seconds off, but I doubt there’s another ten seconds in me fitness-wise right now. The pace would earn me a 17:05 5k, which is good for my current fitness but not stellar, and I’d need to run 67% longer for it. Still, I’m in shouting distance of the sort of times I ran in college (at least in slower years) and that’s a good thing for a guy my age. I won’t be able to do that for too many more years.

Update, 7:48: The results are posted, and it looks like not only did I get a 10:14.98, but if I’d not run with the women like I did, I would’ve been in no-man’s land. The next finisher after me ran 10:45.

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Hey - awesome race! Way to go hard and be aggressive. Feels good no?

I hit my watch at these splits, but I didn’t look at it, so I didn’t know where I was.

Sometimes I start my countdown timer to whatever pace I am trying to keep to. That way when the timer goes off I have a good idea if I am ahead or behind goal pace (based on my position on the track.)

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