I'd planned to do the 10 mile race at the Frosty's Frozen Five and Ten miler last weekend, but when I signed up they showed that the 5 miler was the RRCA state championship, so I opted for the competition.
Racing is so different now, you don't know who's in it for what. So I didn't know where to line up. Ended up on the 2nd row, with a couple 10 year old girls to ahead and (as it turns out) the 2013 USATF XC champion. So it goes.
The plan was 6:05-08 for the first mile or so and then pick it up to about 6:00 pace and hope to have a strong finish. I felt that I could win the age group.
But conservative starts are difficult when the field, including three of those little girls, charges out like it's a high school mid-distance race; I was soon enveloped by the third row, and was probably 35th to 40th place by the first quarter mile at the bottom of the only true downhill. We settled in at a pace that seemed reasonable, but maybe just a little faster than comfortable. At a half mile I tucked in behind one of the precocious young girls and the 2nd place women's runner. When we left Hudson Gardens onto the bike path a couple of masters runners came up from behind and we formed a pack of six or so until the turn around. I felt fine at 6:00 pace through there, it seemed about like a fast tempo effort. However, I knew it would be a little tougher at the turn around because we would have a net uphill of about 150 or 200 feet to the finish.
After the bridge we were down to a pack of three, with the young girl and women's 2nd placer dropping off, a 40 something guy and another that looked to be about my age group. He was chatty at first, making comments about the little girl during the first mile. After that he stopped gabbing but grunted and groaned every 20 seconds or so. An idiosyncracy kind of like Paula Radcliffe's head bobbing, but gutteral.
He didn't sound so great so I figured I'd make short order of him after the turn around. He threw in a surge at about 3 miles which I matched. After a minute more I thought it would be a good time to move on and try to reel in the first woman who was about 20 seconds up. So I pulled ahead of our group momentarily. That quickly aroused the grunter who swung wide and threw down the gauntlet. I held within a few meters for maybe another minute but that one brief move had cost me already. Not ready for prime time surging.
After that I just sort of hung on to the effort (but not the pace, 6:00s were just too tough on the return). One or two other guys caught me. My last mile was pretty lame, a 6:14 with two short uphills. I just couldn't get in enough oxygen.
The talker/grunter caught woman #1 (an OT marathon qualifier I believe) and was 25 sec ahead of me by the finish. I was 30:22, and 2nd Grand Masters and 2nd in age group.
So that's two state championship races since moving here and a 2nd and a 3rd. All those ahead are named Dan. Have some things to work on over the next few weeks, because I think they'll all be there at USATF Nationals in February.
Meanwhile, the eventual winner, Joe Gray was up by a minute and finished in 25:20. Probably just a tempo effort for him.