June means a track 5000 in Fairbanks
But that's the way it was at last Thursday's all-comer's meet at the West Valley track. Going back to the 1970s, I got my start in track at all comers meets and since then have made it a point to find one, two, or many meets a season--even if just three or four people show up. Of course many years no such events were available or I was injured. However, since moving to Fairbanks in 2004 on several occassions I've also tried to drum up some excitement and participation for a fast June 5000 meters.
There are tough muddy races, hill killers, long races, long and tough races, but running a hard 5000 meters on the track is right up there in the gut check category. This year we mixed it up with the high schoolers who used it as training outing. Most were doing it as a tempo or pace run, but my son Mikko and his teammate Erich decided that they wanted to run a fast 5000 on the track rather than race the Midnight Sun Run 10K (which they will do as a tempo this weekend).
Also on the line were former Lathrop High school runners Devin McDowell and Ben Nelson. So the plan was for Mikko and Erich to run 5:20s and I'd run with their teammate Peter at low-mid 5:30s. Peter a 4:22 miler with yet a year of high school to go was doing this as his tempo run and his instruction was not to pass me unless I said so.
Off we went, just as a light rain broke out. Or was it sunny? It was a bit of both the entire meet.
The four faster guys took off at their pace, and I set the effort for a group of three, including local runner Ted Alder who had just run a 4:51 mile. The first lap was 86, too slow at 18 minute pace, so I eased it back up and we hit 800 in 2:49. After that it was like clockwork. Ted led a couple laps and then I took over again, hitting 82s and 83s. With 3 to go I was getting tired so had Peter take me through the 11th lap. I wanted to kick with 600 meters to go, but decided to wait unitl 400. Nope, not there. 300? No. 200. Not yet. 150, okay I picked it up enough to cover the last 200 in 37 seconds.
17:17., my best in three years, and it matches well with other season's best 17:20 (2008), 17:17 (2006), and 17:28 (2007). I ran faster in 2009 and 2005, but slower in 2004, 2010, and 2011.
Meanwhile, Devin and Ben had a great race up front--I lost track of them by half way--in 16:12 and 16:08 resepctively, while Mikko and Erich held onto their pace for 8 or 9 laps but still managed 16:53 and 16:49.
I'd like to train for six weeks or so and get into an age group championsip-level race (preferably under good weather conditions like we had last week) with a dozen or so like minded hammer heads. But for now that's going to have to wait for another year.
All the kids seemed to have a good time as did my fellow geezers out there. We all get to line up with three or four thousand other people at the Midnight Sun Run on Saturday night.