Result: 37:13, 5th overall, 1st in age 20-24.
Miles 1-2: Shot out pretty fast the first mile but it was hard to hold back since it was a net downhill. There was a very clear divide between the first three runners and the rest of the pack so although I was tempted to keep up I let them go (which is good considering the slowest of them was a full 20 s/mile faster than me). Another group formed behind them, composed of myself and two other runners. Around the end of the first mile I was in second within the second group before the guy who was third in the group surged ahead to take lead. By the end of the second mile he was ~10 s ahead of me, and split between between us was the other runner from our pack.
Splits: 5:49, 6:15
Miles 3-4: These miles were uneventful and boring with the leader of our pack starting to pull away ever so slightly. It as still cold and I couldn't stop thinking about how cold it was. As an aside, I ran my fastest 5k split since high school here - Strava recorded the time as 18:30, a pace of 5:57 min/mile.
Splits: 5:59, 6:08
Miles 5-6.2: After being distracted by the cold for a substantially long period I noticed that the leader of our group was no longer pulling away and the guy in between me and the leader was actually getting ever so slightly closer. I assessed how my body felt and I concluded that the only thing keeping me from catching the second place person (in our group, fifth overall) was the cold, and I would just have to get over myself and push through the pain. So I started to reel him in and made up the ~5 s gap over the course of a half mile or so. Once I caught him I sat on his shoulder for a minute or two, composing myself before attempting to drop him. I have no idea why, but I always feel the need to surge ahead when I am racing at the same pace as someone else in order to drop them. Combining my memory of where I surged with my Strava data I believe this happened between mile 5.1 and 5.3 where it looks like I held a pace of ~5:30 to gain separation. Shortly after forcing a gap we turned onto a straightaway and I saw mile marker 18 (for the 30k). Doing some quick math (which is always dangerous in a race) I surmised we were about 3/4 mile away from the finish so I started to do what I felt was pushing the pace, although looking at Strava data I simply held the same pace I had for the last two miles. At mile 6 I could see the finish and I knew I couldn't catch the group leader but I still had to kick as best I could to preserve my spot because I never truly dropped the other runner in our group.
Splits: 5:58, 5:58
Post-race: This was an excellent race for me. I normally don't do so well in the cold, and both respiratory and digestive systems are still recovering 72 hours later, but I'm proud that I was able to pull 6:00 min/mile pace for a 10k. Because all the 10k's I raced in high school were in the XC off-season I might have even set a 10k PR, not just a post-HS 10k PR. I'll try to figure this out later.
An interesting encounter I had after the race was when I got stopped in the finish chute by the guy who finished 2 seconds behind me. He asked "Are you Karl?" I was about half dead with a frozen jaw so I nodded and grunted something to the effect of "yes." He then says "I was afraid of that, I'm just barely ahead of you in the Distance Challenge."
Distance Challenge: It's not over yet but that encounter is currently in the top spot for favorite moment of the challenge. It shows the competition that's occurring, not just within single races, but over the stretch of all six races. I may have initially signed up for the challenge as a way to motivate myself to get back into shape and start running again, but it has now morphed into something more, where I am competing with people again. Running is fun, racing is a blast.
I am still third in the half track of the Distance Challenge, but I managed to "break rank" for the first time. I beat the current second place person by two seconds. I am still just over five minutes behind second with two races remaining, but both of them are half marathons. Unless he stumbles badly and lets me make up three to four minutes in one of the races I think I will finish third, which is fine, but it's still fun to think about the challenge. An optimistic goal would be to gain back the five minutes that separate us but a more realistic goal would be to beat him in two upcoming races.