My goals heading into the race were pretty broad; compete well, go out hard but.. not too hard, and (as always) finish the day healthy. In terms of goal time I really had no idea what to guess at. The course drops over 200 feet which is awesome yet the temperature was in the high-80s. I tend not to enjoy the heat but I'm not sure it matters much over the course of 15-16 minutes. However those factors line up must be different for each individual as afterwards I heard some people estimating the course at 30 seconds fast and others claiming it closer to 50 seconds or more. I've even heard some sarcasm regarding the "Hollis not-so-fast 5k", so who really knows!? I guessed my 5k fitness was somewhere around 16-minutes, so I hoped a time in the low-to-mid 15s was possible. And I hoped I wouldn't be among the scoring runners on the team (top 5) unless I ran exceptionally well. Soon before the race started I learned Ruben wasn't racing and my odds of scoring improved just a smidge.
The first 400m was pretty frantic. I wanted to get out hard but I didn't want it to feel hard. Well, it felt basically awful and matters were made worse by the 50-or-so other runners near me who had the same idea in mind. One guy straight-up leaped across me, causing me to slam on the brakes and I made sure he knew exactly how stupid his move was as I passed him a minute later. Normally I'm a happy, friendly guy at the start of a race, as it helps me to relax and take some pressure off by joking around and making comments. Not this Thursday, though. Bambi and his huge loping legs almost taking me and a few others out before we'd even run 60 seconds ruined it.
Moving forward though I was through mile 1 without additional crisis and as I passed the mile I began wishing I'd had another 4 weeks to prepare for the leg speed and strength required to roll 4:40s. 4:51 was the number and it would be the fastest on the day for me. During mile 2 I fell asleep for a while and gave up my chance at a time in the very low 15s. The final mile was run in what felt like slow motion... A group had crept up on me and teammate Jefferson Welch had gapped me but gradually he lost ground as the swarm moved up. We caught him and I realized suddenly how soon the race would be over. Less than 400m. To the right Dave Kaz was yelling at Jefferson and I to kick like I mean it and I remembered that in these races every second truly does count. I finished believing I was 6th man and out of the scoring but later learned I was 5th in a time of 15:21.8 (chip time).
And that was that. When I finished I was a little disappointed with myself, not from a competitive standpoint but more from a rock-solid indication that my fitness is pretty average for me. I genuinely hoped my 165 lb frame would carry better on the downhill, but maybe that concept applies better to cycling.
The team placed second to Greater Boston by a mere 13 seconds. I'm happy about the overall finish but I lament the chance at a rare victory in the competitive open field. I asked the pressing question to myself: Did I have an extra 13 seconds in me today? And the answer was almost definitely not! I was happy for many of my teammates as most of us competed well. Shout out to Sam Fazioli for nearly cracking 15 coming off of Boston and also to my bro Alex who is back home permanently from an 18-month stint in Siberia and who took the team honors for us in 14:43. Also shout to Dan Princic and Pat Ard who raced well despite finishing VCM a mere few weeks ago.
Next up... 7.6 miles of climbing at Mount Washington. I doubt my 165lbs will carry better up than down!!