Perhaps my birthday gift arrived a day early, but not without a little bit of work and maybe some luck.
I lined up for the Snowman Stampede 10 mile race, the RRCA 10 mile state championship, not seeing one of my age chief age group rivals, the guy that beat me at the 5 mile last month and at USATF XC two weeks ago. We also seemed to have had dodged the brunt of the weekend snowstorm. A couple inches overight but at start time it was relatively calm and overcast with temps in the low-mid 30s, but no snowfall. The path was mostly clear, save for a few choice puddles.
Plan was 6:40, 6:30, 6:20s and then try to hammer the last couple miles in low 6s. Hit the first mile in about 20th place and 6:18 so maybe a bit faster than planned but relatively close to goal pace. Just after that, sure enough, not unlike at the 5 miler my age competitor in red singlet of the Roost sidled up and we congealed into a pack of about five or six runners. My breathing felt good and the pace felt fairly reasonable, but I didn't want to push ahead too soon get caught in no man's land after just a few miles, so I mostly just tucked into the group and let the others do the pacing. We hung in the 6:25-6:30 range, which seemed too slow, but they threw in a couple short surges as if to test things out. We hit 5 at about 32:18, which was a ways slower than my goal pace and I just hoped I could hang when things did pick up. Sure enough at the turn around (at about 5.5 miles) their guy (I think it was four guys from Runners Roost, a guy in orange, and me) surged and we strung out. Suddenly we were down to four.
The comical highlight of the day was at about mile 6 with incoming runners on the same bike path. We came upon a very large puddle that spanned the 8 foot bike path and looked to be 3-5" deep on our side. We had about a second to respond as a lone female on the right side approached. Three choices: straight ahead into the deep clear-cold water for several strides, go right to the cinder path which was obviously 3" of mud and looking very slippery, or go left and only get our toes wet while trying not to collide with the woman.
One went right into the mud, squish!, after a moment's hesitation the of us three behind veered left almost running head on with the oncoming runner.
"Uhhh. Seriously guys!" was her reponse. You had to be there, but the tone of annoyance was kind of priceless. Well maybe she had to stutter step, but there was no contact that I saw and no one fell. No harm, I hope.
We hit the 6th mile in 6:08, and that was a net uphill and against traffic so things were heating up. I expected these guys leave me gasping at any moment so just hung on. The pace let up a bit in the 7th mile as we were going against the bulk of the pack, still heading to the turn around. At 7 the leader (who'd been leading most of the way from the turnaround) turned to me and said, "we're fallling off the pace," and to me "You can lead for a while"
"Sure, I can do that." and I settled into a comfortably fast pace, at about 6:10, fully expecting them to tuck right in.
But a funny thing happened. They fell back. First just few steps. But then it became 5 or 10 meters. I tried to keep it even for about a half mile, but could tell they were just hanging on, so I picked up with some subtle 15-20 second surges. The 8th mile was another 6:08, and then a 6:10 for the 9th and I was closing in on another guy from the Roost. Probably getting to within 10 seconds but he heard me and picked up his effort.
That 10th mile was a bit painful, running scared trying to focus on the guy head who was surging away himself, while holding off those behind. Back into the mucky dirt road in Hudson Gardens I accelerated the turns but kind of floundered on those two at this point grueling 10-15 sec uphills.
Kicked in with a 6:14 final mile and finished at 63:22. So a nice 31:04 or so for the final 5, with a net uphill of 120 feet. And better yet 1st in age group. I didn't expect that, but glad it worked out.