The 2nd race of the NE Runner Magazine Pub Series and I was ready to run (or so I thought.)
I went up with Tom and Justin and we got there early, found a decent parking spot, got our numbers and had everything going just right time-wise. We went for a 2.5 mile warmup, came back to the line and then found out the race was being delayed, they said over the loudspeaker, by 15 minutes. Start time was now to be 11:15.
We were getting cool, so we went out for another easy mile to stay fresh. I hung back to take a leak, looked at my watch and headed back the 600 meters to the start. 11:09 said my watch. As I came over the hill, I saw the line all standing still; Chris Teague hurriedly going across to drop one last article of clothing. "Oh shit..."
I started sprinting; not exactly what one wants to do just before a race in which a smooth, controlled start is essential if you want to breathe well for 5 miles.
I hit the line and within 5 seconds, we were off. I was still out of breath and I was rolling along at a 5:05 pace with 20 guys ahead of me and lousy terrain under my feet. I stayed as cool as I could and went through 1 in 5:02, which I wouldn't have minded if the start had been what I'd expected.
I never once got my lungs back in this race. Sure, there were times when it felt easier than others, but I really knew I was in the kind of shape to hold 5:12's or better throughout and here I was gasping at a 5:27 at mile 2. I was now in 6th, with Teague and some kid in front of me and Kevin Gray and 2 others in front of them. I couldn't let Teague get me because I had to stay ahead of him for the points. This now became the only salvation for this race: I must catch Teague.
Every time I seemed to get within 15 feet, he'd pull away. Finally, I got a decent mile in at 3 (5:12) and at 4 miles, I went by the kid and then Teague on a hill, working furiously. I stayed ahead of them and kept Kevin honest (not that he needed it; if there's one guy who will put even more than me on the pavement to do his best, it's Kevin Gray. That and the fact that he's just a terribly interesting and good person makes him one my local heroes.)
I crossed the line in 26:24.
I was 15 seconds slower than last year, but last year actually got my best, whereas this year just got my best work, if that makes any sense. I learned that I can survive doubt and pain and that I can even create something workable out of it. I don't even consider this day to be an indication of how Boston will go, except for the fact that I've once again proven to myself that I have more in me than I think and I need not cap my experience with expectation.
So, now I'm going in to Boston with a couple of little details I'm rather proud of: I have the points lead in the Series and I'm the Whirlaway Open team leader through 2 Grand Prix races. These items are each entirely by chance more than talent and really don't mean much to anyone else but me, but they happen to be my personal trophies heading into the biggest race of my life so far and I'll take what I can get.
2 weeks and 1 day 'til Boston.