Running Renegade, aka Instant Karma

Laura and I were running a little late as we jumped into the car to head down to Southpark and run the 10K and half marathon respectively.  As we were about to head out, Laura exclaimed, ‘My watch!’ to which I said, ‘Run upstairs and get it’ so she did.  This was the first sign that the morning wasn’t going to go as planned.

I hauled it down I-77.  As I distractedly blew past a guy on a motorcycle, I read ‘POLICE’ on the side of his motorcycle one second too late.  I said ‘I hope he doesn’t…’ as the blue flashing lights came on.  A few seconds and a slew of expletives later, I was pulled over on the side of the highway.

We had decided to run Racefest ‘renegade’, meaning we didn’t register.  I was on-call which meant that if I got paged, I’d have to stop racing, call into work, and deal with whatever problem they felt I needed to help resolve.  And while I procrastinated to register, Racefest proceeded to fill up  to the point where there weren’t enough medals for runners.  With a 2-beer limit on post-race festivities and since I couldn’t really drink while on-call anyway, I opted to run renegade, bandit, ghost, stowaway, whatever euphemism runners are using for free-loaders these days.

I took the speeding ticket as a sign of instant karma.  It would have cost me $90 to register Laura and I.  The ticket is $130 – the cost of the race plus a $40 bad karma fine.

I grumpily pulled into the Southpark parking lot a half hour or so later, with about 20 minutes until gun time.  I texted Théoden, who I had promised to pace, and we agreed to meet at the starting line.  Of course, when I made it to the line, some 2000 people were already lined up and I couldn’t spot TJ.  I figured I’d just run my race and see if I didn’t spot him along the way somewhere.

Moments later, the sea of runners headed up Barclay Downs.  I did the usual weaving in and out of the hundreds of slower folks who insisted upon lining up towards the front.  After maybe a half mile, I spotted Théoden ahead and trotted up to meet him.  We agreed to try and go just under 7:20 pace which would break his standing PR of 1:36.

As we chatted with various friends of ours running the race, me with Henry Ijams, one of my Blue Ridge Relay teammates, and Théoden with Mark Cox, one of his fellow University City Road Runners, we coasted through the first mile in 7:26.  We settled in, running 7:19 and 7:22 through the second and third miles.

It was shortly after the third mile that I told TJ I felt a little strained.  The pace was a tad slower than what we wanted to do and yet I felt like I was struggling somewhat.  But every time I checked my heart rate on the Garmin, I was in the 140’s-150’s, well within acceptable parameters.  The heart rate did not reflect the perceived level of effort.

We continued along the rolling course.  Every time I felt relieved when we crested one hill, I would look up to see another one looming on the horizon.  Racefest – much like the Dowd , the Corporate Cup, and Thunder Road, the other Charlotte half marathons – was loaded with hills.  But TJ and I were finding our groove – we crossed mile 4 in 7:07.  A theme emerged.  One of us would check our pace and say, ‘Crap, that’s fast.  We’d better slow down.’  And we would for a few seconds, but then we’d creep right back into sub-7:10 pace.

A funny thing happened.  The farther we went, the better I felt.  We went through miles 5 – 7 in 7:13, 7:07, and 7:01, and I felt better with each subsequent mile.

Mile 8 was the toughest of the course.  Various running buddies of mine who had run the race in past years warned me to save up for this section as the long ascensions up Sharon View and Valencia can be brutal.  But I was feeling good by this point.  TJ and I stormed the hill, passing quite a few folks, in 7:16.

Having made it through the worst part of the course, I flew down the next hill, pulling away a little from Théoden.  At the next water stop, I grabbed some water and pulled over to the side and waited for him.  We had gone through mile 9 in 7 flat.

A few weeks earlier, Aaron Linz and I had chatted about half marathon strategy and we had very similar approaches.  Conservatively cruise through mile 8.  Then, assuming you still feel fine, take off and race hard for the last 5.  I was ready to apply this strategy.  But I had agreed to pace Théoden towards a PR and I didn’t want to renege on the deal.  I had run with him through 9 and he was well ahead of PR pace.  I asked him, ‘How you feeling?’ and he answered ‘Good’.  Barring some crazy meltdown, he would easily PR so I told him, ‘I’m feeling great dude, I think I’m going to really push it now’ and he indicated that he was totally cool with that.  I took off.

I blazed (for me) through mile 10 in 6:50, my fastest split of the day, passing Richard Hefner in the process.  I knew I was enroute to a good time since he had recently run a 1:33 in Arkansas (I had never broken 1:35).

Mile 11 took me a little by surprise.  There was another tough hill awaiting me.  It sucked a little wind out of my sails as I came through in 7:11.

But I gutted it out the last 2 miles, running a 6:56 and a 6:51 respectively.  I passed a kid (according to the online results, the ‘kid’ was 24-year-old Dave Knavel of Charlotte) with less than a quarter to go, but then ran out of gas and he passed me back just as Jay Holder of the Charlotte Running Club yelled to me from the sidelines,  ‘Looking good Allen!’  I felt a little embarrassed to be getting passed at that point, but I was on the verge of running my fastest half ever so I was okay with it.

As I crossed the finish and stopped my Garmin, it read 1:34:04, about a minute and a half (unofficial, obviously) faster than my previous personal best.  ‘Damn’, I thought.  If I had just outkicked ‘the kid’, I would have broken 1:34.  Oh well, still not too shabby.  If I had registered, I would have officially finished 42nd overall.  Théoden finished right on my heels in 1:34:31, nearly a 2-minute PR.

All in all, it was a good day.  I paid my karmic dues and things are right with the world again.


4 Responses to “Running Renegade, aka Instant Karma”

  1. Richard Hefner Says:

    Hey Allen… Since I’ve just seen your picture on your blog I didn’t recognize you when you passed me. I heard somebody say “Hey Richard” and before I knew it you were 10 feet ahead of me. When Theoden caught me he asked me if I saw Allen come by and that’s when I realized it was you. I ran out of gas and Theoden left me too, but I still finished in 1:35:18 so that’s a pretty good time in an old-man sort of way. Congratulations on your good time, and take it easy on the gas pedal!

  2. Jeff Gaudette Says:

    Great race Allen, and also a nice job at Shamrock. I am glad you were able to finish off that marathon training on a good note. What race are you targeting for the Spring/Summer?

    • Allen Strickland Says:

      Thanks. I haven’t committed to a spring/summer race yet. I’m still mulling over the possibility of jumping into a May-timeframe race, possibly the Bob Potts Memorial Marathon in PA. I ran it last year and it’s a flat, rail-trail race with a soft, forgiving surface. Looks like the fall marathon is going to be the Spinx in Greenville, SC on October 30 – I think that will most likely be my next serious attack on a BQ. Did you happen to get my note through your website? I filled out the little free trial form to see if you could help me try and break 20:00 in a 5k, but I already managed that in a small race a couple of weeks ago (19:48). Was hoping maybe I could do the free trial for 4 weeks just to develop some structure between marathon plans, and then puchase maybe a 20-week plan for Spinx. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  3. Sharon ijams | Zurch Says:

    […] Running Renegade, aka Instant Karma […]

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