King Tiger

Somehow my dad missed this. And as always, I'm fiddling with my watch instead of looking cool (photos courtesy of Jonathan Halter)

With at least a week of pain free running behind me, Friday I pulled the trigger and signed up for the King Tiger 5K.  And as my dad has been asking when he could see me race, I called to let him know I’d be racing a stone’s throw from his house in Highland Creek.

Race morning started a little inauspiciously as the alarm on my new phone failed to go off.  I woke up 45 minutes later than hoped and the mad scramble to get to the University Run For Your Life by 6:30 was on.  But somehow I managed to pull it off as I arrived only about 5 minutes later than planned.

Within moments of arriving, I spotted Kevin in his bright red Charlotte Running Club singlet.  He was talking to Steve Spada so the 3 of us set off for a 2-mile warm-up.  The achilles was a little sore and stiff initially, but after a few minutes of jogging it felt fine.

When we made our way back to the start area, I spotted my dad and talked to him.  This would be the first race he’d see me run since 1985.  On that occasion, my entire family made a day trip to Chapel Hill to watch me come from behind to just narrowly miss winning my heat in the 800 meters (I still think I nipped Matt Moss at the line just like I still think I nipped Derrick here).  No way Dad would see me in such excitement at King Tiger, but then again he doesn’t remember the Chapel Hill meet either so no biggie.

We lined up at the start and even at 7:30 a.m. the heat and humidity were palpable.  I handed my cap to my dad and lined up next to Kevin.  A tall girl in her teens chatted with Kevin and I, commenting that she had noticed quite a few Charlotte Running Club members.  When she asked us if one of us would win, we both said, “No”, and then pointed at Paul and said, “But he will”.   She asked us what times we planned on running and Kevin said something like “around 18:00” and I answered, “I’m not sure.  19:00?  20:00?” to which the girl said to me, “I’ll run with you.  I’m going to beat you.”  I just laughed and thought, “Note to self.  Beat tall, young girl.”

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Tim Rhodes signaled for the baby joggers to start.  Thomas bolted out to the lead and never looked back.  A minute or so later, Tim signaled the start for the rest of us and we were off.

I locked into my recent 5K race pace, hoping to go low 19/high 18’s.  I felt fine as we made the gentle climb up Mallard Creek.  Stan was right next to me and we cruised along at about 6:00 pace and I felt fine.  No achilles pain, no overly heavy breathing.  So far, so good.

Stan eased past me and Clayton Venhuizen pulled alongside and said, “Hey Allen.  How’s it going?” to which I responded, “Hey Clayton.  Okay.”  I’m not a big talker in 5K’s – I’m too busy sucking wind.  When we came upon a baby jogger, I had to make a split second decision, surge to squeeze through a narrow opening between runners and pass the stroller, or slow down and tuck in behind Stan.  I surged.

A few seconds later, Stan passed me back and I tried to lock on him but I could tell I was laboring too much so I had to let him go.  I came through the first mile in 6:03, a perfectly acceptable first mile for me.

Then shortly after the first mile, along came the young, tall girl (results reveal her to be Katie Halloway).  She performed a little self-fulfilling prophecy as she left me in her wake.  As soon as she passed, I knew her prediction to be true – she had legs up to her chin and ran with perfect form and she casually chatted with some guy in front of me while I desperately gasped for air.  Damn.  Small consolation – Danielle told me after the race that Katie is a DI runner so that ever so slightly eased the pain.

Next up, Danielle – she passed me and said “Hey Allen” and I grunted back and tried to lock on and go with her.  Failure.  I was beginning to struggle but my second mile split was still an acceptable 6:07.

Then, Anthony Monoghan came by.  He and I had actually swapped places several times by mile 2, but he strongly surged past at this point and I had no response.  And I knew Derrick couldn’t be far behind.

I was laboring.  Although I’d never run this race, I’d heard tales of the nasty hill somewhere near the end.  I was already dreading it.  At about 2.5 miles we encountered it and it was as bad as advertised.  As I slogged up it, I heard footfalls behind me.  Derrick.  Derrick sped past looking uber-comfortable.  He encouraged me as he came by, “Come on Allen, let’s go!”  But I was already in “just hang on mode”.  I could do nothing but watch him as he pulled away.

All the usual suspects had passed me by mile 2.5, except one – arch-nemesis (and friend – you can do that in running you know, be both arch-nemesis and friend), Brian Sammons.  Brian and I exchange a lot of smack talk and I knew if he got me I’d hear a lot more.  Once I crested the hill, I surged down the other side, letting my friend gravity help me out.  Then I started trying to finish strong while also conserving a little, just in case Brian showed up so I’d be ready to unleash the kick if need be.  He might beat me but I wasn’t going to make it easy.

Brian never passed me but he did finish mere seconds back in 19:44 to my 19:39.  I know I have my work cut out for me if I’m going to hold him off the next time we do battle.

Archrival BSam finishing just a few seconds behind me. At least we both beat the guy from The Hangover, running in a kilt.

Afterward, we had a big cool-down group that included, AJ,  Théoden, Mike Moran, Nathan, Kevin, Derrick, Paul Newnham, and more.  When Derrick jumped to the lead and pushed the pace, we all joked that he only has one speed (while his 5K PR is in the low 19:00’s, his marathon PR is 3:02).

We finished the cool-down and once back at the start/finish area, my dad approached me and said, “What happened to you?”  I thought he was commenting on my slow time so I responded, “Dad, I’m old now.”  It turns out that he somehow missed my finish and thought I had quit or gotten hurt.  He was a little miffed about it and I tried to tell him that it’s easy to miss somebody finishing – I do it all the time.  So now Dad is all set on coming to another race so he can actually witness me finishing.  My goal is to find a really small one so he can see me finish somewhere closer to the front of the pack.

During the awards ceremony, I cheered for a few folks then walked with Danielle to her car to retrieve some stuff I left at her and Chad’s place after the epic 1k beer run.  When I got back, Anthony congratulated me on my age group award and I thought he was joking.  Nope, somehow I had managed to place third in my age group.  I better enjoy this while I can because in a few weeks I join the next age group, the one occupied by Spada, Shires, and McKeon – age group awards in the big races will be virtually impossible to come by.

So that’s it.  Not a particularly fast time for me, but I’m perfectly pleased with the results, especially when you consider that 3 weeks ago I only ran 6 miles total for the week, and they were a gimpy, painful 6 at that.  This week, I’m back up to 50 and my 5K time is only 30-45 seconds behind where I was when I got hurt.  I’ll take it!  See you all Friday at China Grove!

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