Man, talk about pre-race jitters. From the time I woke up Sunday morning until about 5 minutes before the gun went off later that evening I was shaking worse than a cokehead off the booger sugar. I also hit double digits for restroom visits on the day, which I'm fairly certain is a new record. But enough about the unsettled inner workings of my body, let's talk about the race.
Let me preface this report by saying that the New England Championships isn't exactly Mt. SAC. There was closer to four guys in the field than 40, but it was still 12-1/2 laps of the track and even though the winning time was closer to 15:20 than 13:20, it was still one heck of a race.
It was also a helluva night for distance running - 65 degrees, overcast and windless. Maybe a bit humid, but certainly nothing to complain about. For my first track race in almost exactly two years, the conditions couldn't have been more ideal.
OK, enough about the weather. Let's talk about the race, for real this time.
Following the traditional protocol of these things, the gun went up, the gun went bang and before I knew it I was two strides in front of the field before the smoke from the starter's pistol became a part of the upper atmosphere. Not exactly where I wanted to be less than 20 seconds into the race, but this isn't Nintendo - there's no restart buttons in this game.
And a game it was indeed. I led for a couple laps, then Matt Germain took over. I regained the lead, Matt quickly grabbed it back. Mark Mayall then took his turn at the controls and upped the tempo a few ticks, finally stretching the three of us out like an accordion. Within a couple hundred meters Matt reeled Mark back in, and because I didn't have anything better to do, I went by my teammate and took off after the tall guy in the baby blue singlet. I eventually caught him with about two laps to go, but that was my final flicker of hope as I absolutely got lit up over the last 600 meters. Mayall went by me, too, and my melted marathon legs held on for third in the field of thirteen, 15 minutes and 23 seconds the official time next to my name.
It wasn't the outcome I was hoping for, but looking back two days later I can honestly say this was a great race, a tactical chess match on the track even Bobby Fischer would have been impressed with. Not my greatest finish, nowhere close to my PR, but for where I'm at right now in my training, this was a solid effort and a step in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, I hate losing - fucking HATE it - and I'm not too thrilled about running 15:23 on the track, either, but as my college coach drilled into my head, it is what it is. I put myself in position to win with two laps to go and I ran out of gas. I turned the engine but the engine wouldn't turn.
Place and time aside, it was exciting to tour the tartan again and give myself a goal to build toward next spring. If I can successfully tweak my engine over the next year, the gas should burn more efficiently, the gears should shift a little easier and my overall cruising speed should be a whole lot faster. Throw in a pair of plated spikes instead of my all-weather rubber radials and I'm confident this car will be running better than ever before.