I Slept With a Dog (oh, and the Corporate Cup Half)

Get your mind out of the gutter.  I literally slept with a dog, and I, unlike so many announcers and broadcasters (my favorite is, and it gets used frequently in sports, “he literally exploded”), am properly using the word here.

Stock photo of Emmit and I napping together.

Allow me to explain.  I’m dog sitting this weekend.  Staying with me is my pal Emmit.  I haven’t seen him in a while so I’m spending the weekend spoiling him, which means I let him sleep in the bed on Friday night.  Or most of the night.  You see, Emmit snores incessantly at times, and Friday was one of those times.  After hours of listening to him snore, I finally revoked his bed privileges and moved him into the other room.  This story is really unrelated to running – I’m just sharing so I can have a titillating headline and to explain why I had red, baggy eyes on Saturday morning.

Despite my sleep deprivation, I felt fine heading into the race.  By 7:00 a.m., I was parked at the Dowd Y, following my standard modus operandi for uptown races.  As the morning was quite chilly, I wore my nice warm Mizuno thermal plus top (anybody see this BudLight product placement spoof ?  I’m trying this on the blog.  Hook me up sponsors!) as I warmed up with a nice little mile jog or so  to the Atrium.  I got there early because getting your chip at a big Run For Your Life race can be maddeningly time consuming so I wanted to beat the crowd.  Mission accomplished as I had my chip attached to my shoe by 7:15.

I milled about in the Atrium and ran into scores of running friends early, including Jon Halter, Caleb Boyd, and Todd Hartung.  One of the things I really enjoyed about this race is that I run with, and/or am friends with,  a bunch of different running groups, different groups that are never all represented in one place.  Until now.  For example, I know Jon from the University City Road Runners, Caleb from the Charlotte Running Club, and Todd from the Davidson Area Running Team.  I also ran into my Blue Ridge Relay Providence Harrier teammate Bruce Wagoner.  We were running for teammate Christian Brose’s corporate team, McGuire Woods.  I can’t remember the last time I saw folks from all my disparate running groups together in one place – very cool stuff.  I ran into so many others before the race, including Scott Helms, Tom and Lo Patania, Bill Shires, Mike Beigay, Tom Ricks, Mike Kahn, Dean King, Todd Spears, Wen Arias and more, some running, some supporting – it was quite an ensemble of Charlotte Runners.  I was happy just to be a part of it!  Bill was performing photographer duties and he snapped this pic of me:

 

Me doing my best Richard Nixon imitation, complete with red, puffy eyes (thanks Emmit).

My warm-up ended up being a little longer than I originally planned for when I discovered there was no bag check (or if there was, I never found it) so I had to run to the Y, drop my stuff in the car, and run back.

By the time that was all done, we were lining up.  I was chatting with Todd H. in the starting corral when I spotted Kathy Rink right in front of me.  My original race plan was to take it relatively easy and just run a tempo.  But after talking to Kathy, who told me her goal was to break 1:30, I decided to run with her and see if I could maybe help her meet her goal.

But when the gun fired, with no Caitlin around to reel me in, I shot out with the 5K crowd and went through the first mile in 6:30.  I don’t know what my problem is – let’s blame it on adrenaline because those first miles always seem effortless.  Kathy pulled alongside shortly thereafter and I apologized for going out too fast.

A little boy (10 or 11-years-old maybe?) was cruising along in front of us and I was beating myself up for losing to a kid when his heel apparently caught the curb and he took a tumble.  I must be careful with my thoughts – apparently I have psychic powers.  The kid popped right up and seemed none the worse for wear, until maybe a hundred meters later when he stopped running and started walking, while sucking wind hard, and sounding like he might have been  hyperventilating.  I asked if he was okay and he nodded, despite the fact that he looked/sounded to be on the verge of tears.  But he’s a kid and kids are resilient so I carried on.

Kathy and I continued on and our second mile split was back on perfect pace, 6:49.  We hit our first hill and Kathy, it seemed to me, surged up it (in retrospect, I think she just maintained pace uphill while I dropped off).  We were soon joined by her friend and co-worker Clint whom she introduced.  A recurring theme began – as we hit an uphill, Kathy and Clint pulled away.  On the downhill, I worked to catch up.  Over and over and over.  And from the second mile on, I felt like they both looked stronger, more comfortable, than I felt.  They maintained some casual conversation while I struggled for air whenever I spoke.  They set the pace and I tried to hang on.  I had brief moments where I would feel fine and pull alongside, sometimes even ahead, but these good patches fell few and far between.

 

Only at the 5K turn-off and already I'm struggling to keep up with Kathy and Clint. (photo courtesy of Tom Patania)

Soon, another theme emerged.  Charlotte runners that weren’t running were out cheering.  Just past the 5K turn-off, I spotted Jay Holder who cheered on both Kathy and I by name.  Jay’s cheering gave me a little boost and I eased back up beside Kathy and Clint.

I didn’t feel completely horrible – I thought like 1:30 seemed imminently doable as we stayed a little ahead of pace, clicking off respective 6:50 and 6:39 splits for miles 3 and 4.  As we were passing a girl up one of the many hills (I think we were on Providence at this point) she said “Hey Allen!” and I realized that it was Angie Pilkington, another of my Providence-Harrier-turned-McGuire-Woods-teammates.  I introduced her to Kathy just as she and Clint started pulling away from me up another hill.  I pointed to Kathy while whispering to Angie, “She’s fast!”   And then I surged in an attempt to catch up.

Near the Manor Theatre on Providence, I think somewhere around mile 6 or so, I spotted Dennis Livesay and I called out, “Why aren’t you running?” to which he responded with something like, “Because I’m out here to have fun!”  At multiple spots along the route, I spotted Stacy Mercer, an as-to-then-unknown-to-me Charlotte runner who ran a 3:04 marathon in Myrtle Beach.  At one point, I called out to her, “Hey, is your name Stacy?”  When she responded yes, I yelled, “Join our club!” and pointed to my Charlotte Running Club singlet.  (Caitlin told me later that she too recruited Stacy to join.)

Somewhere around here I spied Boriana up ahead,  Boriana who is right in my wheelhouse but I’ve never beaten.  I pointed her out to Kathy and said “Do you know Boriana?  We’ve got to reel her in.  I’ve never beaten her.”  As Clint and Kathy surged up the next hill, she turned to me (as I was struggling to hang on) and said, “We’re catching her on the hills” to which I responded, “Yeah, the only problem with that is you’re dropping me on the hills”.

I’ve run this race several times now and I’ve employed the same strategy.  Maintain through 8 and then race the last 5.  So I shared this strategy with Kathy and Clint.  I said, just past mile 8, going up Colony next to Myers Park High School, that’s when I’ll start trying to drop negative splits.  Somewhere near mile 8, we caught and passed Boriana.

As we passed mile 8, at the water stop and the relay exchange area, there stood Bjorn, ready for his relay leg.  I yelled to him something like “Come on man, I want to race you!” Exactly what I said is fuzzy as fatigue, and therefore a loss in mental acuity, set in.  Bjorn yelled something back but I couldn’t tell you what he said – you’ll have to ask him.  Paul was here, cheering us on and taking pictures.  He snapped this one:

 

That's me waving while Bjorn points and talks smack. (Photo courtesy of Paul Mainwaring)

Buoyed along by Paul’s cheering and Bjorn’s smack talking, I surged through here and for the briefest of moments, ran ahead of Kathy and Clint.  I was intent upon exercising my standard Corporate Cup half strategy.  But there was a problem.  It seems that strategy works fine when you run the first 8 miles at 8-minute per mile pace.  It doesn’t seem to go as smoothly when you run the first 8 miles at 6:50 pace.  So shortly after attacking the hill on colony, I was passed back by Clint and Kathy (or Team Lowe’s since they both work there).

Now I switched into survival mode.  The rest of the race I just tried to stay in touch with Team Lowe’s.  This was a losing battle.   Other than mile 5 which had been a hilly 6:58 split, every mile through 9 was on pace, 6:50 or better.  But I was fading and the splits started reflecting that.  “Just hang on”, I told myself.

My friends were strategically posted everywhere.  If I had attempted to organize cheering buddies at strategic spots, I don’t think I could have done better.  Every time I was about to give in and drop the pace to a crawl, one of my friends would pop up along the course and cheer.  Near mile 10, it was Jason Martin who admonished me to soldier on.

I tried to maintain a 6:50 pace, but as I’ve said before, this felt like trying to hold onto a handful of sand – it was slipping through my fingers.  Mile 10 was a 7:01 and I knew the sub-1:30 was now officially in jeopardy.  I tried to steel my resolve because I knew the brutal Morehead climb was up ahead.  Time to man up.

Just before the turn onto Morehead, a familiar runner blew past me.  It was Jordan#23 whom I had recently battled with in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K.  As he blazed by, attacking Morehead, I thought, “Wow, he must be much better at half marathons than he is at 5K’s” but then I realized that he was way too fresh.  He didn’t appear to be sweating at all.  Ah, he’s running the relay.  That made me feel better as I struggled up the beginning of the last, but probably the nastiest, ascent of this race.

Luckily Adam Mayes was standing there and he yelled for me.  I picked it up as I didn’t want to look like the slow, old schmuck puttering up the hill.  Some young guy passed me and I was just about to let him go when Scott Helms and friends appeared and cheered me on.  I passed the guy back.  He passed me again, and again I was going to let him go, until I spotted Bill Shires who yelled something like, “Don’t give up!  Now’s not the time to quit!”  You’re right Bill!  I passed the guy again as Bill snapped this photo:

 

I ain't gonna quit.

Morehead became Louis Gosset Jr. in An Officer and A Gentleman while I became Mayo (Richard Gere).  This will make no sense whatsoever unless you’ve seen the movie and/or watch this clip.

After what seemed like hours, I crested Morehead and turned right for the final stretch to the finish.  I was ready to cruise it in until Thomas Egger popped up and yelled “It’s time for you to go!  Catch those guys!” and pointed at 2 guys up ahead.  I picked it up but didn’t think I had time before the finish to catch them.  Until Tom Patania was suddenly there and screamed, “Go Allen!” and I sprinted past both guys.  Tom snapped this photo of me  just before I snuck past those guys:

 

Time to man up. Do not lose to the guy with the water belt. Please.

 

Alas, I fell a little short of the day’s goal, finishing in 1:30:25, but I was perfectly content with the results.  After all, this was a tough, hilly course.  And I can take solace in the fact that Kathy broke 1:30 (in 1:29:36).  Maybe somehow, the wheezing, snorting old man incessantly hovering behind her annoyed her enough to drop him and thereby break 1:30.

I milled about afterward, saw and chatted with more friends, and enjoyed some great post-race fare which included delicious smoothies and Great Harvest Bread (all coupons readily accepted) before rushing home to let Emmit out.  Another thoroughly satisfying race day in the books.  See you all next weekend at either the Shamrock 4-miler or the Angels of 97 5K – I haven’t decided which one to run yet!

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2 Responses to “I Slept With a Dog (oh, and the Corporate Cup Half)”

  1. Mike Kahn Says:

    “Time to man up. Do not lose to the guy with the water belt. Please.” – that made my day LOL. Great race Hyperlink!

  2. stack Says:

    great race! you were LITERALLY on fire out there! (yeah… it rubs me when people do that too).

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