Drove to Lowell with Aaron and arrived about 6:30. Picked up my number and did an early warmup on the roads around the neighborhoods and over the river; just over two miles in 16 minutes - Aaron's first run in a week!
Saw Jose Ortiz from Whirlaway, Chris Blondin from GBTC (who had already run the 800), Larissa Park from SRR, couple familiar faces of current collegians who I coached against during their high school years (Monica Adler, Joel Hubbard).
Perfect night to run; goal was to run 75's as long as possible and hopefully not slow down too much if/when that became too hard. Aaron was at the 200 calling splits from there and I had the clock at the finish.
First lap was absolutely surreal - I knew it would be plenty fast, but it literally felt like I wasn't even running. Just caught up in the event and everyone else's running. Settled in to 6th place behind a pair of New Balance guys. First lap was a 73 or 74 and felt like I was out for a walk. Of course, I didn't expect that feeling to last very long, and it didn't. It gradually fades away into a variety of different mindsets. First, I was sort of just counting my meters every 400 meters (definitely not thinking about laps to go). I was 4:56 for the first 1600, exactly where I wanted to be. My dream was to run 4:56's for the first 8k, but that was not to be.
Ever so slowly, the goal pace of 75 seconds per lap began to get harder and the idea of maintaining it for 31+ minutes seemed like more of a pipe dream. After all, why should I think I would be able to run a faster pace for 6.2 miles tonight than I ran for 5 miles last Friday night? At 3200m, I came through in 9:54, with a 4:58 second 1600. I knew my pace was getting pretty close to exactly goal pace, rather than under goal pace, like it was for the first 6 laps.
Mentally, I was counting up every 200 meters now (3400, 3600, etc.). I also had the added challenge/distraction of passing lapped runners. We had started the men and women together and there were several women that I lapped three times and a couple (or maybe just one) guys who I lapped twice. Early on, I tried to get around them with minimal effort, by just drifting by on a straightaway, but as the race moved along, my moves were less energy-efficient and I wound up running some curves in lane 2.
4800m - came through right around 15:00 (don't remember this one, but think it might have been 14:59 or 15:00) and 5k in 15:32 (Thanks, Aaron!). Two years ago when I ran 31:28 I ran a 15:38 first 5k (that was Jim Pawlicki calling out splits in '11), followed by a 15:50 second half. Coming through 6 seconds faster than 2 years ago was encouraging, but I didn't feel super great at this point. The next 3800m or so were kind of a holding on, gradually getting slower, but really not wanting to, and not being able to do much about it. I was in 5th place all this time (one of the leaders had dropped out, I think intentionally at some point), 2nd and 3rd were close to each other, and I remained anywhere from 5-15m behind 4th (one of the New Balance guys).
My 6400m split was 20:03ish and 8k was 25:10ish. I knew at that point if I was 10 seconds over goal pace it would take a strong finish to get under 31:28. With three laps to go I tried to surge, but I think it was only in the last 800 that I made up any time. Chris Blondin (who races the 800) complimented me on my final 2 laps afterward, which meant a lot. He told me my final 400m was a 67, which also pleased me. Came through chasing the same New Balance guy who had more than me at the end, but helped me to a PR. Chris and Aaron both had me at 31:19, and the official time posted by the time I was done cooling down with Jose, Larissa and Jordan Kinley (spectating, resting for Burlington next weekend) was 31:20.01! (Just checking results, I realized that I ended up just a little over 2 seconds out of 3rd, which is quite a bit closer than I thought.)
I am thrilled with the result; it was great to have some friendly faces there to celebrate with and encouragement from Aaron, Chris and President Derderian. Would have been great to have my family in attendance, but it is kind of a late start for the kids, and watching Dad run around the track 25 times probably isn't as engaging as watching Cars 2 or reading Olivia.