The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

For years now, I’ve been wanting to run in one of the Charlotte Track and Tri club’s track meets.  But life always got in the way – either I wasn’t in any kind of shape to run a track meet, or I was out of town, or my schedule didn’t allow it, etc.  Tuesday, all the stars properly aligned and I finally got the chance to run in my first track meet in years. 

I ran in 3 events at the meet and the outcomes reminded me of the famous Sergio Leone film.  So today I steal the title, um, pay homage to the director by utilizing the title, of one his classic Spaghetti Westerns.  Queue the Ennio Marcone sound track.   Here’s how it all went down:

The Good 

Things heated up as evidenced by this photo I took on my way to the meet:

I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  After all, this was the first track meet I’d run in forever.  I was excited and nervous.

Many of the  fast CRC  usual suspects were already warming up as I made my way down to the track – Jordan Kinley, Chad Crockford, Bobby Aswell, Stan Austin, etc.  Théoden strolled up about the same time I did.  Before we began our own warm-up, we chatted with our various friends.  I told Chad, ‘Uh-oh, I can’t find the obvious mark’ and he replied, ‘What do you mean?’  I said, ‘The mark – the guy that comes in last.  And you know what they say, “If you can’t find the mark, chances are good you are the mark!”  I had the feeling I’d be battling to avoid last place in my various heats.  I was right.

Before we lined up for the mile, I asked Jordan, ‘Hey man, what’s the plan tonight, sub-4:00?’  I was only half joking – I heard he ran 4:20 the week before.  Jordan said he wasn’t racing so I relaxed a little – I thought, ‘Okay, that’s good.  I shouldn’t get lapped in the mile.’ 

Just before the start of the mile (actually, the 1600), 30 or so of us lined up as we received a few instructions from the starter.  Then we took off.  I tried to hang with a couple of guys, namely Bobby and Stan, that I knew were faster than me, but not so much so that I shouldn’t be able to stay within a reasonable distance.  I wasn’t sure how to pace in a mile these days and I’ve witnessed Bobby maintain a steady pace in many a race.  It seemed as good a strategy as any. 

I eased right into the middle of the pack and tried to get comfortable – this is not an easy thing to do when racing in 90+ degree heat.  But I managed.

I felt fine, not great.  I tried to save something for the final turn, and I’m glad I did because  Tim Rhodes,  owner of  Run For Your Life , snuck by me in the final turn and said, ‘Come on’.  So I did.  We sprinted down the final straightaway and I just eased ahead of him at the line.  And while my 5:30 time won’t get me into the Olympic Trials, I was okay with it.

The Bad 

Next up, the 400.  This one was going to be run in lanes and everyone lining up looked fast.  This was the first time since 1995 (I’d run some all-comers meet in Durham) that I’d be racing in spikes and I had very little idea of how fast I could go.  I hoped I might break 60.  If I did, I might post on  Timothy Budic’s blog to get added to his 400 meter challenge list.  But I hadn’t run a ‘real’ all-out 400 (I don’t think you can count the CRC Cinco De Mayo race) since, well, the 1980’s.  I don’t think most of the guys I was racing were even born the last time I raced in a 400.

I lined up in lane 7 and moments later the starting gun, or air horn, fired.  I bolted.  There was a guy in lane 8 and I somehow managed to catch and pass him on the backstretch.  But everyone else caught and passed me.  My final time – 65.  Ouch.  Not exactly going to email my old Carolina teammates and brag about my time. 

The Ugly

The final event of the night was the 2-mile (3200 meters).  My goal: don’t get lapped.  Paul was running this one and I guessed he might go 10:15 or so.  I asked Bobby, ‘If Paul runs about a 10:15, what do you think I’d need to run to avoid getting lapped?  You think 12:00 would do it?’  Bobby’s answer, ‘Hm, I don’t know – that might be close.’  I was worried.

The horn fired and I planned on using my tried-and-true ‘keep Bobby in sight’ strategy while the leaders sprinted out to an early and very commanding lead.  When I rounded the second turn and looked up to see the leaders already nearing the third turn, I knew I was going to get lapped.  To borrow a line from Family Guy, “It’s like a date with Kobe.  You can fight it all you want, but it’s going to happen”. 

Employing my 'just try to stay close to Bobby' strategy.

I quickly formulated a new strategy – don’t let anyone lap you twice.  And no one did.  But it was close.  Talking with Paul afterwards, I found out he ran a blazing 9:55.  And lost!  Apparently, some kid from the Appalachian State track team outkicked him.

I finished in 12:43, the first time I’d ever raced a 3200 and run slower than 11-something.  It was also the first time I’d ever been lapped. 

It’s time to let go of my track times from the 80’s.  If I get back to the current century, I’ve actually improved.  To help resurrect my dying ego, I went back and read about some of my times from a track workout in January.  At that time, I was considering it successful to run sub-7:00’s.

All in all, I had a blast at the meet.  It was brutally hot and I had to battle to avoid coming in last, but I didn’t mind.  It felt incredibly good to experience a track meet again.  I didn’t care in the least about the bad and the ugly.


One Response to “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. meagan Says:

    allen, i laughed out loud several times while reading this. great recap. oh and if it makes you feel any better, i get lapped all the time.

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