7 Days

At least one good thing comes out of slaving away in a Dilbert-esque cubicle for years.  If you spend enough time working for one company, you’ll eventually pile up some vacation days.  After 15 years with my company, I’ve earned 5 weeks of vacation a year.  And since we have basically a “use ’em or lose ’em” policy, I had some days to burn.  So I took the past week off.  It was, in a word, awesome, a preview of what my life could be if I ever won the lottery.  Here are some highlights, with, of course, a focus on running.

Monday

My vacation basically consisted of me lounging around Laura’s townhouse while she was at work.  And since her new pad is only a few miles from McAlpine Park, one of my favorite running locales in Charlotte, I made McAlpine my official vacation running headquarters.

Monday morning, I shot over to McAlpine with a plan to run 7 or 8 miles.  My legs, still sore and beat up from the Towpath marathon and then the  Lungstrong 15k a week later, had other ideas.  They had no intention of cooperating.  I struggled through an 8:20 mile, despite the perfect weather.

Shortly after the first mile, I noticed a runner approaching on the trail.  It was my friend and fellow Charlotte Running Club board member, Scott Helms.  I turned around and accompanied Scott for the last mile or so of his run.  Then I slogged another mile and a half before bailing.  No point attempting to force more miles.  Live to run another day.

That night, Laura and I met our friends Bill and Maria at the Fillmore where we watched Daniel Tosh perform stand-up.   I laughed hard and I laughed a lot.  Unbelievably, I left thinking the show and beers were worth the $47 and $11 dollar price-tags, respectively.  Okay, I lie – the show was worth it, the beer wasn’t.  Sorry, no beer on the planet is worth $11 a glass.

Tuesday

With the legs still sore and tight, I didn’t even attempt to set out on my own.  I waited for Laura to get home from work and we went to McAlpine together.  I was more than content to run with her at her normal 9:30/mile pace.  We had a thoroughly enjoyable, easy,  run together.  My legs were happy.

Wednesday

Back on my own, I ran a comfortable, slow and easy, 10K in McAlpine.  I felt almost normal as the legs were about 85%.

Thursday

At 11:30, I rolled into the Burger Company to meet Kevin, Leonard, Theoden, Billy, Emily (Hansen) and Chris (Lamperski) for lunch.  You can’t beat the Runners’ Lunch at Burger Co. – good food, good company, and good conversation – it’s always one of the highlights of my week.

In the last couple of months, Laura had discovered the Charlotte Runners Meetup group’s Thursday night Common Market run.  She told me what a blast they had weekly, running a four mile run then hanging around and having a few beers afterward.  So we targeted the Common Market as the site for our Thursday run.

We got there around 6:00, about 30 minutes before the run’s scheduled start time.  She and I jogged an easy 2-mile warm-up.

I had no idea what to expect as far as the run was concerned.  As a substantial running crowd gathered, I looked around for someone I knew, someone of roughly my same running ability.  After a few moments, Bob Heck trotted up – perfect.  Bob’s beaten me in every recent race that we’ve run together, but not by ridiculously significant margins – he’s someone I should be able to keep up with on a little 4-mile training run, unlike the fast sect I saw assembling nearby – Jordan Kinley, Chris Lamperski, and Brian McMahon.

So I chatted with Bob until the head of the group announced it was time to start and we all started running.

Bob took off like he was shot out of a cannon.  I went with him for a bit, but I knew I wanted to race on Saturday and there was no way I’d be able to if I kept up this pace.  Apparently quite a few runners, Bob included, use the Common Market as a tempo/race simulation.  I dropped back and ran about 8:00 pace.  About half a mile in, Joey Church (my beer run arch nemesis) blew past me.  “Joey, slow down!” I called out.  “I’m using this as a tempo!” he muttered as he flew by.  Moments later, Brian McMahon blasted past too.

Within a couple of minutes, I was in no man’s land.  The leaders had substantially gapped me and everyone else was substantially behind.  I had to maintain a sub-8:00 pace to keep the leaders in sight – I was afraid I might not be able to find my way back if I lost sight of the leaders.  So I ran a little faster than I originally intended.

Jordan never passed me.  He and Chris had run a tough workout earlier and were just running the Common Market run as a cool-down.  I would have been better off sticking with he and Chris, 2 of the Charlotte area’s fastest runners, than with Bob.  Madness.

But the fun really began after the run.  We all chatted and drank a few Yuengling tall-boys.  Good times.

A big running crowd drinks beer at the Common Market on Thursday night. See Laura and I in the back as I raise a tall-boy to the photographer.

Friday

Friday morning, I met Théoden and Jay Valentine at 6:15 in the University area.  I broke out my headlamp and flashing light (a little clamp-on light so cars will notice and hopefully not run you over) for the first time since the Blue Ridge Relay.

It was a beautiful, cool autumn morning as we ran under the full moon.  We took it nice and easy and other than an emergency restroom detour into the woods, I had a nice run and some pleasant conversation with TJ and Jay.

Saturday

That’s me, looking extra dorky in headband AND glasses, starting on the front row next to Bobby Aswell. I’m still on course at this point, but not for long.


In the morning, Laura and I headed over to the Huntersville business park to run the North Meck Rescue 7k. It’s an odd distance, 4.34 miles, but a cool little race that featured a drawing for a chance to win 7 grand.  How could we not run that?

I thought I might have an outside shot of winning until shortly before the start when Bobby Aswell ran up and crushed my dream.  As Bobby and I chatted at the start, I looked around and noticed some young, fit ‘serious runner’ looking kids.  I quickly readjusted my goals to a top 5 finish.

The starter gave us the start signal: “Runners set, go!”  I settled in behind Bobby.

I still wasn’t 100%.  I thought I might be able to handle some 6:30’s so I tried to lock in at that pace.  I went through the first mile in 6:15 as Bobby and the young, fit guys gapped me and a few other guys.

As we hit the hills of the Huntersville Business Park, it became painstakingly clear that I couldn’t maintain 6:30’s up the inclines.  I ran the second and the third miles in exactly 7:00 each.  Then it happened.

I had been reeling in 2 kids (I’d say between 18 and 25 years old) since the start.  As we neared an intersection, they both went left.  I thought we were supposed to go right (I actually looked at the course online beforehand), but as a volunteer was standing right there and said nothing, I thought the kids and the volunteer knew something I didn’t.  This is the problem with being directionally challenged – even when you’re right, you think you’re wrong.  I try to use reverse psychology on myself, but it backfires.  Long story short, I followed the kids off course.

About a mile later, someone on the course notified us of our mistake.  We were within sight of the finish line, and to get back on course meant running an extra mile back the way we’d just come.  I was the only 1 of the 3 off course folks who turned around and headed back.  I wasn’t heart-broken – this wasn’t exactly the Boston Marathon.  So my 7K tempo just became a 10K tempo.  So what?

I was hoping I still had a shot at catching Laura, but it turns out that when I spot her 2 miles, she beats me.  She finished twenty-seventh overall and second in her age group in 37:15.  I officially finished in forty-seventh place in 42:00.   (In a bizarre aside, I still nearly caught former North Carolina basketball player and 7-footer Kevin Salvidori who came in 45th in 41:33.)

The $7,000 drawing occurred after the race.  A time had been randomly chosen before the race and if anyone ran that exact time, they’d win the 7 grand.  Laura and I talked about what an awesome story it would be if by running off course, I ran the winning time.  But no such luck.  The time turned out to be 1 hour and 35 seconds.  Linda Ketchie of Mt. Ulla, NC missed it by 3 seconds.  I don’t think she was there for the drawing because I didn’t hear any gasp when the time was announced.  I know I would have made a lot of noise if I missed winning 7 grand by only 3 seconds.

Sunday

I know I need to get in some long runs if I want to maintain fitness.  The Dallas Whiterock marathon is only 5 weeks away.  Respect the distance, Allen.

So Sunday morning, while both of us were a little tight and sore, Laura and I headed over to the Davidson cross-country trails to try and squeeze in a ‘long’ run each.  I targeted somewhere between 10 and 14 miles, depending on how I felt.

I was cruising along, although not particularly comfortably, at about 8:40 pace.  I was surprised when, about a mile in, I came across my friends Chad and Danielle Crockford.  We exchanged high fives as we ran in opposite directions.

Then, when I had completed about 5 miles, I encountered Chad and Danielle again.  One of the nicest couples I know made a u-turn and joined me.

We pleasantly chatted as the pace gradually increased, but I didn’t mind.  It was nice to have company.  Chad and Danielle ran roughly miles 12 through 20 of their long run while I ran miles 5 through 13 of mine.  My pace ended up being around 8:10/mile instead of 8:40, but the ‘fast’ miles felt easier than the slow ones.  Proof that good company helps you run.

We finished up, said our good-byes, and went our separate ways.  I think we all had food in our immediate future.  Long runs make hunger.

Shortly thereafter, Laura and I grabbed a pizza and plopped down in front of the TV and watched the Panthers get their first win of the season.  This week will end with some lounging, some playing fantasy football, and maybe even with drinking a few beers.

It’s been a very good week.

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2 Responses to “7 Days”

  1. Chris Lamperski Says:

    sounds like a great week to me!

  2. Kay Allen Says:

    I love the Thursday night run, so much fun. Always a great crowd and the cheapest “race” around. I hate to miss a Thursday run. Good to see you and Laura back last night for the Halloween run. I got to join the CMMR club last night too, if you’re caught still out drinking at midnight you get to run the course again, in the other direction. A good night!

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