This was the final meet of the New Balance Twilight Series sponsored by, appropriately enough, New Balance and New Balance Boston. I would like to start out by saying how much I enjoyed this series and how much I appreciate them sponsoring such an event. I may have been a little out of place, a slow, old man trying to regain part of his youth, but the series provide great opportunities to run fast times and sharpen your racing skills. I had the best race of my spring season and managed to run faster than I thought possible at this point in my come back.
I had a really easy week of training this week (only about 40 miles or running and one pace workout on Wednesday night) so I was feeling pretty rested and hopeful about running fast tonight. I was not sure how things were going to go today though because I spent three hours out in the sun coaching my sons' baseball game from 10:30AM to 1:30PM and sweat a lot. When I got back to the house I had a quick lunch of rice and started hitting the water to make sure I was properly hydrated for the evening's race. When I got down to Waltham the weather was nearly ideal - it had cooled down to about 70 degrees and there was a very light breeze. I borrowed a page from the CMS group's warm up and did a nice easy 3 miles capped off by a quick 150m-200m acceleration. I have been a bit surprised by how well my speed has come around lately. I have been doing a lot of accelerations at the end of runs and strides after run and just in the last 2 weeks or so I have noticed that I feel much more fluid and natural. Tonight was no exception and I was able to gradually accelerate to top speed without straining. My only concern was that my left leg and hip were feeling a bit tight and I could not loosen them up no matter what I did.
Similar to last weekend's race, I used McMillan's Running Calculator to determine my seed time for tonight and entered a very optimistic 15:10 (a whole 29 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago). I figured that I ran a 4:06 1500m, which is equivalent to a 15:18 5000m, last weekend on tired legs so I should be able to go faster this week. With this in mind my race plan was to go out in 4:50ish pace but be flexible enough to adapt to what was going on in the race so that I had a group of guys to work with. Two weeks ago I made the mistake of sticking to my plan too well and running the whole race alone. I did not want that to happen tonight. As the gun went off all 25 racers and 2 rabbits went off and I fought to get out well but not get boxed into the first lane. I figured that there were far too many people in the race to get trapped like that. I felt great coming through 400m in 71 seconds and started to see the group of guys that I was going to work with - I think that they were Giovanni Signoretti, Carl Dambkowski, Barry Britt and Matt Terry. We continued on the pace nearly perfectly and hit 2:22 (71), 3:33 (71) and 4:44 (71) for the next three laps. I was a bit shocked by the first mile split since it was 18 seconds faster than I got out two weeks ago, but I felt really comfortable, I was not breathing hard at all and I had a good group of guys to work with. All of my other 5ks this year have been almost exactly evenly split and I never felt a lot of pain but this race would be different. The fast first mile would come back to kick my ass later in the race.
I kind of zoned out on the splits and really tried to focus on racing the guys was with, or at least sticking with the crowd and going to the front when I felt like the pace was dropping off, but I think that we started to drop off to 72's for the next mile. I remember going through 3000m in about 8:56 -8:57 and I am pretty sure that we went through 3200m in 9:34 (4:50 second mile) together as a group of 4-5 of us. I was feeling alright at this point, although a bit tired and my breathing was starting to get a little labored. The final mile was pure agony. I don't know exactly when I started to slow down but I think I was going between holding back and not running faster so that I would have a great kick and thinking this was the last race of the season and I had to lay it all down. I truly believe that I ran as fast as I could but could not maintain contact with the other guys I was running with for the last mile and I am pretty sure that I went through 4600m (1 lap to go) sub-14 minutes and 4800m in 14:34 (5:00 third mile). The last 200m on the track seemed to never end and my lungs were about to implode but I was able to close in roughly 36 seconds, not that spectacular of a sprint, and cross the line in 15:10.3. That is only 0.3 seconds off the seed time I gave and my 1500m from last week was only 0.87 seconds off the seed time I gave. I guess that I should have given a 14:59 seed time! I think that the last picture below was taken as I was running the last 100m of the race. The pain is obvious by the expression on my face and I do not look nearly as fluid as I do in the pictures above. The guys I had been running with finished in 15:07, 15:02 and Barry Britt actually went 14:58. I wish I could have stuck with them, but I am ecstatic with the race that I did run so I will have to wait until next year to get my first legitimate sub-15 5000m.
Entering this season I was not so sure what to expect because I struggled with an injury all winter and spent a large percentage of my training time on the elliptical trainer and the bike. I have accepted that cycling is a permanent part of my training but am very hopeful about what the future will bring based on my last month of racing. My first 5k this season was a dreadful 16:28 5k on the roads that had me doubting the training I was doing. My main goal this spring season was to get some speed into my legs and I really wanted to run sub-15:30 for the 5k. In the last month I have shown a lot of improvement and tonight I ran much faster than I ever expected to this season. I used to believe that all of my PR's were behind me but after tonight I think that my PR's for distances 3000m and up lie in the future. I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next couple of months and years but I finally feel like a runner again and am finally seeing progress.
Again, thanks to Tom Derderian for the photos. He has more photos of the meet posted here.