Talking ’bout China Grove…

 

It was a busy running weekend!  Laura and I ran 2 races – the China Grove 5k on Friday night and the First Annual Old Mecklenburg Brewery 1K  on Saturday.  Here are my recaps of both races: 

The China Grove 5k 

China Grove is more than a Doobie Brothers’ song.  It’s also the site of one of my favorite 5K’s. 

Laura and I headed up on Friday night, and except for one wrong turn (anybody else from the Lake Norman area miss the 150 turnoff?  I noticed on the way back that the road sign was nestled behind some trees) that turned the 26-mile trip into a 44-mile one through Salisbury, we arrived without incident.  It was after 8:00 (the race started at 9:00) so we hustled to grab our packets, attach our bibs and chips, and then I took off for my warm-up. 

I spotted fellow CRC’ers Jay (Holder) and Paul (Mainwaring) warming up while sporting some spiffy red Run For Your Life singlets. The third CRC member I encountered was Chris Lamperski who gave me a high 5 as he ran by.  I figured even their warm up was too fast for me so I continued along until I spotted my buddy Todd.  I jogged a ways with he and his girlfriend Kathy, then dropped my CRC singlet off at their car – the heat and humidity had already rendered the shirt too heavy with perspiration.  I decided to race sans top. 

A few minutes later we lined up at the start.  Milton Matheny jogged up and I knew there would be no masters win for me today.  Like I continue to tell anyone that will listen, 45-year-old Milton miraculously runs faster than he did in high school.  On this night he would drop a 17:24 to win the master’s division.  

By the time the race started, it was already too dark to get a good look at my watch.  So I went ‘old school’, attempting to settle into a 5K-pace effort while I let the race unfold.  I thought I might have a shot at breaking 19:00 as I had recently run a 19:37 on a much slower, much hillier Great Harvest course. 

I guessed I had gone out too fast – nothing new – when we were well past the half mile mark before Bobby Aswell, and then shortly thereafter, Alice Rogers, both low-18’s runners, passed me.  My guess was confirmed when we passed the mile marker and I heard the kid yelling splits say, ‘5:56, 5:57’.  Oops, time to back off. 

About a mile and a half into the out-and-back course, I spotted 2 figures, the leaders, as they emerged from the darkness and headed directly towards me.  I hustled to the right to get out of their way – I didn’t want a repeat of the Ada Jenkins 5k where I inadvertently played chicken, and lost, with the eventual winner, Chad Crockford.  At first I didn’t recognize either of these guys, but as they neared, I realized one of them was Jordan Kinley.  I was a little surprised to see that he was in what appeared to be a dog fight – he seems to win most of the Charlotte-area races pretty easily – but this time he was neck-and-neck with someone.  I tried to yell some words of encouragement but some inaudible sounds came out.  I would find out later that the guy Jordan was battling with, Ryan Woods, is no slouch – he was an All-American in cross-country at NC State in 2000.  Jordan managed to win in 15:04 while Ryan came in second in 15:16.  

As I’m so wanton to do, I backed off a little too much during the second mile – a 6:36.  I sped up for the last 1.1, but the damage was already done – there’d be no sub-19:00, or even a sub-19:30, for me.  I finished in 19:36, 35th overall, and 3rd in the 40-44 age group. Chris edged out Jay for third and Paul finished just behind them in fourth.  Laura crushed her ’09 time by 3 and a half minutes, finishing in 28:01.  Ken also posted a strong Charlotte Running Club performance by destroying his time from a year ago and taking 2nd in the 70 and over age group.

As usual at China Grove, the post-race was a blast.  I mingled with friends, finally talked with Richard Hefner in person, and munched on pizza, watermelon, cookies, etc.  China Grove rivals the Hickory half for post-race goodies.

First Annual Old Mecklenburg Brewery 1K 

Laura and I signed up for this race back in May after reading about it on Théoden’s blog.  I was a little concerned about racing the day after China Grove, but this was only a 1k and for $25 you got a t-shirt, 2 beers, and a barbeque dinner.  Sold. 

I wasn’t sure what time I could expect to run (I hadn’t raced anything shorter than a 5K in years), so I inputted my 19:36 5K time into the McMillan Running Calculator and it predicted a 3:20 1K.  I had a time goal. 

I also didn’t know what to expect in terms of race organization.  This was being put on by the Old Mecklenburg Brewery, not any known racing entity.  But when Laura and I pulled up, there were people adroitly directing traffic, so I relaxed a little.  

While picking up our bibs, t-shirts, and most importantly, beer tokens, I noticed something about the crowd – very few looked like particularly fast runners.  In fact, this gathering more closely resembled a Mardi Gras crowd than a bunch of road racers.  Cute little costumes were in abundance.  I noticed fellow CRC’er Scott Helms donning a costume which made him resemble some 1970’s porn star: 

Scott, 'the Playa', surrounded by worthy competitors

As the starting time approaced, a unique phenomenon occurred, something I’d never seen at any other road race.  Everyone stood well back of the starting line.  That was my second clue that there weren’t a lot of experienced racers here.  I walked, unencumbered, right up to the line. 

Scott yelled to me, ‘Hey Allen!  Are you in it to win it?’  And I responded, ‘I’m always in it to win it!  It just usually doesn’t work out that way!’  I surveyed the crowd of around 500 and thought to myself, ‘I’ve got a shot at winning this thing.’  There was one guy who wisely lined up on the inside.  He was thin, athletic, wore Brooks running shoes and a Garmin 305.  I thought he might be my chief competition.  He asked me what time I planned to run and I just gave him the 3:20 McMillan prediction.   He said, ‘That sounds about right.  I think I’ll just try to stay with you’. 

About this time an older gentleman who introduced himself merely as Russell walked up and chatted.  He said, ‘Okay, you look pretty serious.  I bet that lady a beer that somebody here would break 3.  Can you do that for me?’  I told him that sounded a little fast for me, but I’d do my best.  This should give you an idea of the crowd – Russell had pegged (nearly) 44-year-old me as the probable winner. 

The starting horn was sounded and about fifteen 21-year-old guys took off like bats out of hell.  One kid at an all out sprint blasted into a huge lead.  While young, thin, and athletic, I quickly deduced he’d be coming back to us soon – the basketball shorts and high tops gave him away as an imposter.  I was passing him about 200 meters in. 

And he wasn’t alone.  I throttled back a little and remained patient as the college kids and costume-laden fell off one by one.  Half way in, I had worked my way up to 3rd.  As we neared the final turn, I realized I had made a slight miscalculation – the leader had gapped me enough that barring a complete meltdown, or a trip, I wouldn’t catch him.  But the kid in second was starting to rig.  He had a good 30 meters on me going into the homestretch, but I sprinted past him at the line to take second.  The guy I had sized up as my chief competition took fourth.

Later, I looked up the winner, Joey Church, on Athlinks.  He’s 30 years old and ran a 38:15 10K at Racefest in April.  So I take no shame in losing to him.  But Russell may be a little upset – Joey ran a 3-flat and I ran 3:04.  Russell lost his pint wager.

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2 Responses to “Talking ’bout China Grove…”

  1. Chris Lamperski Says:

    awesome recaps man! nice work

  2. Stack Says:

    I just commented on your Blue Ridge Relay post only to see that you ran the 1k… reading this post who would have guessed it… I was the one starting next to you and finishing 4th. Great kick @ the end… it was cool to watch from behind! 🙂

    I had little to no training of any kind (13 miles total for that month and even less the month before) so I went into it with little or no expectations but I was kicking myself after the race that I didn’t at least try and dig down deep enough to also catch the guy you passed for a 3rd place finish. Of course I didn’t know about the cool prizes for the top 3 either.

    Always next year (although I suspect the competition will be a little stiffer).

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