January 12 (Sunday) - Road trip 'out west' to Dartmouth Relays w/ KT. Plan was to try to run a 3k in lieu of the cancelled snowshoe race this weekend. I haven't run a 3k since 1999 so I was pretty sure it would be ugly. I also haven't 'raced' since October and really have raced sparingly since the summer. I have been doing OK miles but have done zero workouts so I knew that trying to run race pace (or UNDER race pace as a 3k requires) would be tough. 5k pace is about as quick as I'm used to. The sad thing is that I entered the meet with a seed time that equated to my 'normal' 5k pace (at least my 5k pace from 2008-2012 ish). I really want to get back into racing and I just need to dive in and work my way up. So this was a great wakeup call. I seeded myself at 9:20 (KT did as well). That would be the 2nd slowest 3k I would have ever run, but it was equal to about a 10 minute 2-mile so I figured I could shoot for that. Even though I've been running 50-60 miles per week for a while now and have been running everyday and getting good work in, 5 minute miles right now is just not in my wheelhouse. I will get it back, but right now it's not there. For some reason though, part of me thought I could squeak out a sub 9:20...yet another part of me though 9:30+ wasn't out of the question either. I just have zero speedwork with just access to treadmills and awful roads and snowmobile trails. So I really wanted to just treat this as a chance to get on the track and hammer. Worst case, I run slow but get a good workout session in on a track. It only cost me 12 bucks to enter....and it's kind of fun to dip my toes back into a track meet....even though I am not ready to run fast.
KT picked me up at 7:15am and we hit DD's (Dunkin Donuts not Dave Dunhams') and then shot over to Dartmouth in Hanover, NH. We got there just in time to file into the field house with Williams College and BC. It was intimidating right away because it was all college guys and very very few open runners. We did see Downtown Darin Brown when we walked in. He had run the 1500 earlier in the morning and then was waiting to run the 800. KT and I headed out for a warmup after watching Darin run his 800 and Darin joined us after a strong 2nd place in his heat. We did 3 miles outside around downtown Hanover and then headed back inside to get ready.
There were 3 sections of the 3k and 57 total guys who checked in. KT and I were put in the old man heat (but it was really just us and 20 other 18-21 year old guys). I was absolutely the oldest one in the heat and most likely the entire race by a lot. I think KT was next and he's almost 5 years younger than I am. We were hip numbers 12 and 13 ( I got lucky 13 ). They put 22 in our heat. Staggered start. KT and I were on the outside. The gun goes off and I immediately find myself in about 4th position up in the stagger group. By the cut-in, I was deep in the pack, further towards last. It took another lap before I found myself wanting to pass Kevin and a couple other guys who were in front of me. I went wide and around them, settled into the rail, and immediately felt like death. I wanted to drop, only 3 laps in. I left my watch in my bag, as I knew it would do me no good. But immediately I found myself in no-mans land for almost the entire race. I lost touch w/ the front pack right away but never really fell back too much after the first few laps. I am just so unfamiliar with racing and running that fast (sub 5) that I really just felt awful and awkward. I didn't think there was any way I was going to get through it. It's 15 laps. When it said '11' on the laps to go counter, I wanted to stop. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... I just felt awful. But I didn't feel I was slowing down all that much. I did slow, but I didn't die a horrible death. I just couldn't go any faster and wanted to actually conserve enough to get through it without doing a death march on the last couple laps. There were guys in the first couple of heats that looked way worse than I did on the last few laps I think. I started to pass a few guys over the last bunch of laps and felt like I was going to be able to do it when I saw 4 to go. I knew no one else would pass me because the guys I had gone passed were really rigging up. On the last lap, I actually lapped a guy but I actually may have lapped 2 based on the results.
I ended up finishing in 9:26 and was horrified. It actually wasn't my all time worst 3k though. I actually ran slower in 1999 at the GBTC Invite. It was my only indoor track race (I think) of senior year because I got hurt right after cross country and it lasted until I graduated (which was basically why I didn't run again until 2006). I ran 8 seconds or so slower at GBTC that year. So this wasn't an all time PW but it was close....but it was what I was expecting. I'm looking at being 37 in a few months and I haven't been running good miles for very long and have done zero speed work. So really I'm not all that disappointed and I know that I can no longer fake a 9:00 3k. I need to be in shape and I'm not there yet. In the back of my mind, I knew I'd be right around there anyways. The sad part about it is that 9:05 won my heat and my PB (granted that was when I was in college) would have put me 5th OA in the first heat...so really there were only a few guys total, that did something today that I hadn't done before.... But it is what it is now and I know where I am and what I have to do to get better.
4+ miles or so cooldown w/ KT on the back roads around campus and then we were out of there. Subway subs on the way home and lots of talking about the upcoming year... good times. Oh yeah, I wore the old school white/blue/orange CMS Reebok kit. I may have disgraced it slightly, but either way, it was dusted off and dragged along for a 3k today in western NH.
One other observation....I was one of only 2 guys out of all 57 who did NOT wear spikes. Just me and one of the guys I lapped, were wearing road flats.
One last observation....Unless I KNOW I am fit and can handle it, I don't think I'm doing another indoor track race any time soon....unless they have a 10k or something longer :). But I am glad I went and it's a great indicator of where I am fitness-wise, which is very valuable to be able to work off of now with my training.