Dennis asked me today while we were warming up "when was the last time we toed the line together on a track?" I was not ready for the question but I surprised us both that I did know what race it was (the year was fuzzy so I had to look it up tonight). We finished 19th (16:22.67) and 20th (16:24.56) in the USATF New England Indoor Track and Field 5000 meter championship race at Harvard in February of 2008. I was DFL (dead freaking last) and Dennis was bothered by an achilles issue. [meet results]
I was pretty nervous before the start as expected. It has been a few years since I raced on the indoor oval. I got sorted with my flats taking a few strides with one foot having an Inov8 and the other a Saucony A4. I went with Saucony. They called for heat seven as soon as heat six finished. I saw former CMS 'mate Jeff Goupil finish his mile in 4:57. I lined up in between seed #1 (a female) and seed #3 - Larissa. Dennis was a few runners down, maybe the 6th person to my right. The starting gun got us off in a hurry. I jumped toward the back and waited for those on the stagger fill in after the 1st turn. I planned on taking the first few laps cautiously to not worry about place but pay attention to the splits - staying in the hunt of 37 or 38 seconds per lap. Lap one and two were around just that. Three laps down and I was around 1:52 just behind Larissa and Dennis. I felt good and noted a good bounce to the track. I wanted to get aggressive and move up - get competitive with the 10 or so in front of me. I had to wait though and use patience. I passed half way (half mile or 800m) in 2:30 and moved out and put in a hard lap. This is risky. I could put in that surge and it could cost me a few laps later. I carried the momentum and found myself closing in on the two leading the race so I went after them keeping my aggressive move now for three laps. I passed them at the bell lap taking the lead. My inexperienced legs wobbled on the back straight, form started to break down, and I heard steps coming back on me. The guy blew by (he would win with 4:50.95) and then one more on the final straight into the finish line (he finished with 4:52.4). I finished 3rd with a time of 4:53.2. Dennis ran quicker than last week dropping his time down to 5:02.26 and Larissa was the 3rd fastest female in the mile (5:12.92).
I was good with the time and beat my seeded expectation of 4:56. I had so much fun ripping through the 2nd half of the race. I had a negative split by comparing the 1st 800m (2:30) and 2nd 800m (2:23). Moving up through the race after 800 meters reminded me of my younger and fitter days when my mile times were under 4:40. I had the fitness to make the aggressive surges, back it up, and have the kick in the last lap. Today, it was all there in terms of instinct and execution minus the follow through (and slower pace) to the finish line. I had fun today and did not expect that. I expected the hurt box for 7 out of 8 laps and a physical break down in the 2nd half of the race. The race exceeded all expectations but I was purposely careful on the approach by keeping the first four laps within myself and staying out of traffic. The experience has me wanting more of this indoor track racing: what can I do if I ran another mile but ran the 1st 800m in 2:23?