Kickin’ Off ’11 Right

Me, trying to stick to my prediction time pace (all photos in the post are courtesy of Leonard Hilliard)

What started out looking like a nasty, dreary mess of a day actually turned into a nearly perfect way to kick off the 2011 running year. 

My 2010 ended inauspiciously.  I finished the year with more relationship woes, stressful job developments, and finally a bad bout with some nasty stomach illness, perhaps the flu.  Christmas week, my dad’s house looked like this scene from Family Guy.  I’m glad to put it behind me.

Not having run since Christmas day, I was beginning to panic.  I tried to run on 2 separate occasions and both were miserable endeavors that ended with me walking it in while my stomach violently protested.  So I was concerned going into the Charlotte Running Club’s New Year’s day event – we scheduled a ‘hangover run’, a 5K prediction run where the winner would not be the fastest runner but rather the one that best predicted their time.

I rolled in around 9:30 to be available to help set up.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Aaron, our fearless leader, chatting with Jason Martin.  The 3 of us took off for a nice little pre-prediction-run run, a 4-mile jaunt featuring much of a peripheral trail that I’ve rarely used.  I regained some confidence as I felt fine for the duration of this run, even early on when we dipped down around 7:30 pace for a bit (about my marathon race pace).

By the time we got back to the stage at the front of the park, runners were gathering.  Fellow CRC board members Jay Holder, Caitlin Chrisman, and Emily Barrett were bustling to set things up while the dynamic duo of Jordan Kinley and Meagan Nedlo laid out a nice spread of all things Craft and Karhu (not to mention some nice Balega socks destined to go home with the prediction winner). A few minutes later and quite a few of my running friends showed up and were milling about: Tom and Lo Patania, Caleb Boyd, Todd Capitano, Ben Hovis, John Compton, Stan and Jinnie Austin, Wen Arias, Kathy and Larry Seavers, Sarah Keen, and more.  Caitlin recruited me for my second warm-up of the day, a quick little jog around the lake.

The gathering Charlotte Running Club crowd

When I got back to the stage, I couldn’t decide what to put down for my prediction.  I had 2 warm-ups under my belt where I’d felt fine, but did I feel good enough to run a fast 5K?  I toyed with the idea of putting down a really slow time and just jogging the course, but I knew my competitive nature would prevent me from running too slowly.  I decided on an in-between time, 21:55, just over 7:00/mile pace, not too fast, but not too slow – a decent  tempo pace.  I had 3 separate wagers with Kevin Ballantine, Paul Mainwaring, and Todd Capitano  – if my prediction time was worse than theirs, I’d buy them a beer,  but more importantly, from my point of view anyway, whoever was a worse predictor than me would have to buy me a beer.

Soon, we all gathered at the starting line.  Moments earlier, while perusing everyone’s predictions, I noticed that Jinnie Austin had written down 21:45.  Standing around the starting line, I asked her if she was good at pacing.  Her response: “No.”  Oh well, there went the “just stay 10 seconds behind Jinnie” strategy.  Aaron gave a few instructions and then signaled for the start and we were off.  I bolted out with the leaders.

I knew I was going too fast, but what’s new?  I also knew I had plenty of time to slow down.  I was still trying to formulate a solid strategy when Meagan came alongside me a few seconds later.  “So what did you put down?”, I asked her.
Too fast.  “Have fun.  We’ll see you later.”

Meagan, mere moments after our chat, already having gapped me out of the picture.

A few seconds later, Jamaar Valentine ran up, so I asked him the same question.  His answer: “I got here too late.  I didn’t write a time.”  Damn, still on my own as Jamaar dropped back.

Jamaar and I near the first mile - Leonard kept making me laugh by yelling things like "Quit sandbagging Strickland!"

Moments later I crossed the first mile marker and shortly thereafter I heard someone yell “6:30!” “Hey, who’s looking at their watch?!”, I thought.  So I must have gone through around 6:25, WAY too fast for my prediction.  I backed off.

But around this time, Michael Kahn, pushing a baby stroller, zipped past and I wanted to pull a Captain Kirk and do this.  Now just so you know, it really hurts my feelings to be passed by somebody with a baby stroller, especially on a crushed gravel trail!  Nothing stokes my competitive fires more.  But I know Kahn’s legit, he recently won the “Run to Victory” half marathon in Randleman, NC in 1:21 – that’s 9 minutes faster than my PR.  I had to recite all my “time to back off” quotes to myself, “Better a live dog than a dead lion” and “Discretion is the better part of valor”, etc.  “Back down!” I screamed in my mind.

We hit the hill on the course and I cruised up it, keeping my breathing controlled and my heart rate down.  Michael’s kid lost a shoe coming down the hill so I called out to Michael but he responded something to the effect of it was a good excuse to buy his kid some new shoes.  I continued to try to ease back as we ran around the lake.  I knew I was still well ahead of pace.

Michael Kahn pushes his kids, one of them missing a shoe, around the lake.

We rounded the lake and entered the woods on the other side.  Todd passed me so I asked him his prediction time and he responded “21:05”.  So if he was close at all, and I was guessing he was, I needed him to beat me by some 50 seconds.  I throttled back some more.

About the time I exited the woods and started back around the lake, Jamaar caught back up and asked me if I was ready to kick.  “Heck no, dude!  I need to crawl in from here!” so Jamaar barreled by.  I slowed down to a jog.

Todd finishing. If you look in the upper righthand corner of this pic, you can see me trying to finish 50 seconds back.

By the home stretch, I was barely running at all.  When Jinnie sprinted past, I knew I was getting nearer to my prediction.  Caitlin yelled something like “Kick!” and I yelled back, “No, then I’d kill my prediction!”  As I drew near enough to hear Aaron, he yelled 21:30, 21:31 as someone crossed the line ahead of me.  I ran as slowly as I could go and still keep a running motion.  But then I saw Paul and Todd’s exasperated looks at me so I picked it up a little to cross the finish line in 21:39, 16 seconds off my prediction.

My prediction edged Todd’s by the thinnest of margins, 16 seconds to 19 seconds.  And I think Paul ran too fast as he tried to track down Mr. Compton.  He ended up crushing his prediction by 30 seconds or so (I think John ended up doing the same thing – by edging out Paul for first finisher, he too ran significantly faster than his prediction).  And since Kevin was unable to attend, that’s an automatic forfeit.  3 – 0.  Ben Hovis wound up winning the prediction competition, missing his by only 5 seconds (it seems so unfair that one of Charlotte’s fastest runners won the prediction contest, sort of defeats the whole point of the thing).  I heard some talk of controversy though as someone allegedly only missed their time by 1 second. 

John and Paul finish in the first and second spots respectively, but in doing so, blow their prediction times.


Afterward, I bought some gear from Jordan.  Then Jamaar, his girlfriend Christi, John Filette, and Leonard invited me for a few more miles.  How could I say no?  Leonard and I somehow got separated from the group and ran the last 3 (of 4) miles on our own.  He was coming off a bit of an injury so he ran slowly enough that I could easily keep up (not usually the case when running with him).

We finished up and then helped Jordan and Meagan load their gear.  Apparently as a reward, they hooked us up with some bonus Craft and Karhu gear – the cherry on top of a chocolate sundae of a morning (sorry, I’m craving ice cream for some reason).  If the rest of 2011 lives up to the first day, I’ll be a happy runner.


3 Responses to “Kickin’ Off ’11 Right”

  1. aaron Says:

    Starting off the year right! Thx for recap.

  2. CRC Hangover 5K | RecoveryRun Says:

    […] out and were randomly scattered from here on out. At about the end of the first mile I passed Allen Strickland, and I wasn’t certain what was up but I thought he was a lot faster (and he is, but was […]

  3. caleb Says:

    nice recap, I just about died laughing at that captain kirk link

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