The Show For the Dough (aka Angels of 97 5K)

Alright gang, let’s make this a quick one.  Tons of Charlotteans are running big races today and I thoroughly enjoy seeing their results come in so let’s knock out my self-absorption and get on with vicariously living through others’ achievements.

Last week, as I was mulling over which race to run this weekend, I got an email from my friend Adam Mayes.  Adam is one of the organizers for a 5K in my neck of the woods, the Angels of 97 5K. All week long I was vacillating back and forth over which race to run, trying to decide between the Shamrock 4-miler and the Angels 5K.  I knew that the top 3 finishers at Angels won money and that most of Charlotte’s fastest runners would be competing in the 4-miler.  Adam mentioned that he hadn’t noticed many fast guys signing up for Angels.  Knowing the race was for a good cause(to provide scholarships to local high school seniors in honor of 5 North Meck students that tragically passed away in 1997), came with a free spaghetti dinner, and it was right around the corner from me at North Mecklenburg High School,  I was sold.  The Angels of 97 it was.

The race started at 9:00 so I pulled into the North Meck student parking lot at 8:00.  Excited to be wearing my brand new Charlotte Running Club singlet, I proudly trotted over to the race site.  I might not be that fast but, by god,  I can look fast!  The sleek black uniform gave the illusion of making me look thinner, younger, and faster.  The outfit looked every bit as nice as most collegiate track teams’.

I spotted Adam and we chatted a bit about the race, its course, and Adam’s misfortune of recently being diagnosed with a stress fracture.  He seemed remarkably upbeat – I think I would have been despondent with the Boston marathon right around the corner.  But, no pun intended, Adam seemed to be taking it all in stride.

I took off for a little warm-up and about a mile in, I ran into Todd Hartung who was warming up with, and introduced me to, Ben Meredith.  Ben had just recently started running again after a hiatus of years.  We talked about our recent races as we surveyed the course a little.

After the warm-up, I headed back to my car for some last minute Gatorade G2 hydration (one of these days, my blog product placements will pay off).  On my way back, I ran into Todd Mayes, Adam’s fast running brother.  He was carrying a brand new pair of Saucony Fastwitch.  I pegged him as today’s winner and told him that unless some fast high school or college kid showed up, I figured he would take the day’s $100 winner prize.  He laughed and made some humble, self-effacing,  remark but he looked ready.  He was sporting his game face.

Go time was rapidly approaching so I made my way to the starting line.  Sarah Keen was already there and stretching so I joked with her about how she was hiding out from the competition.  I told her I thought she had an excellent chance of winning as I had not seen any of the usual fast female cast of characters – it would appear that they were all racing elsewhere this weekend.

I ran a few strides before the race when a thin, fast-looking kid wearing a North Meck track singlet asked me what my goal time was.  I laughed and said, “If I break 19, it will be a very good day.”  This seemed to deflate him a little as he remarked, “Well you look fast.”  I just laughed and said, “I’m old and slow!”

We lined up while Adam gave us a few final instructions over the bullhorn.  Then he said “Runners on your mark, get set…’ and then pressed the button emitting the high pitch squeal and we were off.  Another high-school-aged kid bolted to the lead with Todd a few strides back.  It seemed pretty obvious to me that this kid would not be able to maintain the lead for long – Todd looked to be calmly biding his time.  2 more high school kids followed (one of them being the guy I had talked to moments earlier).  2 guys who looked to be about my age were close behind.  One was Shawn Stilphen who Todd H.  had introduced me to earlier.  I recognized him from Salem Lake – I had passed him late in the 30K race that I was using as a training run so I was fairly confident he would come back to me at some point.   But that confidence waned a bit by the first mile marker when I came through in a 6 flat and yet Shawn was still a good 10 seconds ahead and looking strong.

While that first mile had been downhill, the second started with a significant climb.  I slowly but surely started reeling Shawn in.  As we crested the nasty, but only significant, hill, I inched closer and closer to Shawn.  By the time we hit the second mile mark, a dreadfully slow 6:42 for me, I was mere feet behind him.  I was upset with the 6:42 but didn’t panic as it had been straight uphill – I had expected slower than the first mile,  just not 42 seconds slower.

The wind was in our faces for the remainder of the race.  I passed Shawn as I felt another runner tuck in behind me.  I tried to ignore him as I picked up pace and set my sights on the high school kid who had led early.  He was rapidly dropping off pace as I, and the guy drafting off me, blew past him.

Mr. Drafter made a move to pass me on the left as we ran the steady, but not steep, incline of mile 3.  I surged.  You might beat me Mr. Drafter, but you’re going to have to earn it.  He tucked back in behind me as I bore the brunt of the wind.  I could see his shadow go right as he looked to be regrouping in an attempt to pass me on the inside.  I eased to the right and sped up again.  Feel free to pass me Drafting Guy, but you’ll have to do it with a stronger move than that – no easy passing here.

I spent the entire third mile picking up the pace, hoping the drafter would give up, but he valiantly hung on.  I was starting to get a little miffed, feeling like I was doing all the heavy lifting while he was reaping all the benefits.  But I had an ace up my sleeve – I’ve always been a middle distance guy.  I ran a low-50’s quarter mile in college and a 2-flat 800 meters.  I can usually out-sprint most guys my age and I was prepared to do so again.  We made our last turn, onto the sidewalk that led to the North Meck parking lot finish, and I took off.  The drafter did not come with me.

This is the 44-year-old's kick that I was ready to unleash if needed. (This pic really has nothing to do with today's race - I'm just looking for another excuse to post it as it's so cool and I don't have any pics from today's race!)

I was a little upset when I saw 19:50-something on the clock.  After all, only 2 weeks earlier I had run a 19:20.  But after discussing times with everyone later, it turned out that everybody ran nearly a minute slower than their usual 5K times.  The terrain was pretty tough, the wind was significant, and it appeared that the course may have measured just a tad long – Todd M, Sarah, and I all had 3.17 on our Garmins.  So I was okay with my time.

I finished outside of the money in 5th place overall, but I won the 40-44 age group, edging out Shawn and Todd H.  Drafting guy turned out to be 46-year-old Jim Keffer of Huntersville who  approached me afterward and said, “I saw you were trying to break 20 so I decided to help out by pushing you.”  I know he was joking, but in a way, it was quite true – I don’t think I would have broken 20 had he not pushed me for the last 1.2 miles.

Sarah won the women’s race while Todd Mayes won the men’s.  Ben won the 35-39 year old age group in 21:00 after running a 20:00 in a 5k a week earlier.  We all enjoyed some post race fare – I had coffee, bagels, and oranges – as we recapped our race.

Another weekend of racing, another age group award, another fun time – another good example of why I run.  Hope to see you all at the next race!

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3 Responses to “The Show For the Dough (aka Angels of 97 5K)”

  1. Todd Hartung Says:

    Allen,

    Great recap. Good to see you and catch up. I know I could have run faster and will record a better time next weekend.

    That was a tough course with some strong winds and may have been a tad long.

    Todd

  2. Gil Gilreath Says:

    I love how im mentioned in this blog as the “high-school-aged kid that bolted to the lead but wouldn’t hold it for long” but…….i managed to hold the lead for a good two miles haha. i think thats pretty decent for a 14 year old. but good job! 😀

    • Allen Strickland Says:

      Hey Gil – I don’t think you were the high-school-aged kid I was referring to. I could have sworn there was a guy that bolted out to the lead early, for maybe a quarter or so before being passed by you and Todd, the eventual winner. But then again, maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me way back where I was.
      Did your dad go to high school at Northwest Cabarrus? Ask him if he knows Allen Strickland.

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