A couple of weeks ago, I watched Craig Fram and Paul Hammond absolutely hammer an indoor 3000m at the final BU mini-meet. That race is now on YouTube, and is worth watching again, if only for the desperate (and successful!) lean, and subsequent fall by Fram. But it wasn’t just the final gutsy finish that impressed; it was the way both old warriors attacked the race, and how well the distance seemed to suit their ability to grind and grind.
I ran the 3000m during the GBTC meet at Harvard on Sunday. I dunno. It’s a tough distance. It always feels like it’s always run right on that red line. The last few times I’ve raced the distance, I’ve had no kick at all, just wobbly legs that barely keep me moving forward. Sunday was like that.
So after singing the praises of the mile in my blog last week, and running on one of the few remaining 440y tracks in existence, why race the 3k? The choice was a practical one. The 3k was early, and all the other possible races (the open mile, masters mile, even the masters 800) were later. With several Concord Academy runners coming to the meet, I wanted to get my own racing out of the way before switching into coach mode.
I got in a long warm-up outside, but still had plenty of time to do a full set of drills. Even with the warm-up and the drills, I didn’t feel great. Even though the last few days had been very light, I felt not-quite-recovered from the previous Sunday’s long run and the very sodden seven-mile slogfest on Tuesday. My body wanted to run long and slow, maybe for another 10-12 miles, rather than compress the same amount of effort into 10 minutes of hard running.
I was seeded fifth in my section, but I had no intention of doing anything other than heading right to the back of the pack to run 40-second quarters for as long as I could. Fortunately, I had Joe Fischetti and Stephen Peckiconis both yelling splits to me every lap (from different locations). 40-40-40-40-40. Oh, there were tenths of a second in there, but I don’t remember any of them. I think the first 1k was about 3:21.
I had told Joe that I wanted to negative split each 1000m, but I had also expected to feel just a LITTLE bit more comfortable after only a third of the race. Still, a plan is a plan — I tried to pick it up just a bit. I also went by a couple of guys who were slowing down. I made it to the mile at around 5:21. A couple more laps and I hit 2k in about 6:41. Everything seemed to be lined up for me to run under 10 minutes. Unfortunately all the little dials on the instrument panel were starting to swing ominously over into the red..
For each of the last five laps, Joe screamed out a split with a few more tenths of a second added on. I wasn’t dying, exactly, but each of those laps was eating into any reserve that I might have been able to throw into the final sprint. But that’s always been my experience of the 3k
The last couple of laps I knew that I wasn’t going to break 10:00, and I just wanted not to give too much away. On the last lap, I tried to shift my cadence, tried to generate some force, tried to kick like I had imagined kicking, but I succeeded only in maintaining the pace. I crossed the line in 10:03.25. I immediately went hands to knees, feeling relief but no elation. Mostly, I was mentally fatigued from pushing and not being able to go any faster.
From one perspective, it was a pretty solid race. I ran roughly 40 seconds for each of the 15 laps and finished completely spent. So it was well-paced, at least. From another perspective, though, it felt like the race lacked something — maybe a change of pace. Or maybe, I just haven’t figured out how to run 3ks yet. Honestly, I think about Fram and Hammond and I wonder how they do it.