Just Another Week Or How the Orthocarolina Classic 10K Owns Me

This week included a sting, some forgotten shoes, and the dodging of some very large people.  Let’s break it down.

Monday – Junk Miles

Finally, some decent weather.  The scent of autumn was in the air.  After running in temperatures in the upper 90’s for weeks, upper 70’s bordered on chilly.  I took it nice and easy since my legs were still a little beat up from Sunday’s long run.  These are the days that make you love running, especially after weeks of slogging through high heat and humidity.

Tuesday – Nothing

I planned to meet Nathan for an easy afternoon jaunt.  I especially needed a run as I was having a bad day at work.  Senor Chang set me off – again – and the run would help me blow off steam.

I needed to hit the locker room by 3:30 to meet Nathan at the usual time and place on the trail, but Chang kept me until 3:45.  So when I finally finished with him, I rushed to the locker room and quickly started changing clothes.  I had swapped my work clothes for my running outfit when I went to put on running shoes and subsequently discovered I had no running shoes.  Lint licker!!  What the french, toast?!?! (trying to find new ways to curse without actually cursing, ala the Orbit gum commercials.)  I angrily changed back into my work clothes and sent Nathan a text, telling him I forgot my shoes.  I went back to work and worked straight through until 8:30.  No run.  What a very crappy day.

Wednesday – Yasso’s

This workout started a little iffy – I was still a little sore and tight from a pretty tough prior week.  There were hurdles set up through lane 4.  (Aside: Is there really this much hurdling practice going on?  I seriously doubt it.  I think this is just a ploy used by Groundskeeper Willie – the nickname I’ve given the Davidson maintenance guy who drives around in a golf cart and runs off runners, including, rumor has it, Anthony Famiglietti, a former US Olympian in the steeplechase – to keep runners in the outside lanes).  I stiffly began my warm-up in lane 5.

The track was pretty crowded on this perfect morning, but initially everyone was fine, courteously following track etiquette with the walkers sticking to the outside lanes.  There was a Kenny Rogers, or was it Santa, look-alike who was walking the track in a clockwise direction in lane 6 who kept drifting dangerously close to my lane, but he never crossed over into lane 5 so he was fine.

Then ‘they’ showed up.  A group of 3, um, rotund (yeah, this is a euphemism for morbidly obese, seriously, 400+ pounds each) folks walked onto the track.  And good for them – at least they were trying to do something to change things, unlike this poor, misguided lady, who instantly reminded me of the 30 Rock character, “Pam, the overly confident morbidly obese woman”.

It’s great that these 3 are attempting to exercise, but please, for the love of god, do it in the outside lanes.  For whatever reason, they grabbed lanes 5,6, and 7, leaving lane 8 empty.  Fine, I understand this honest mistake for the first lap.

I came through on my first 800 meter repeat, running about 6:10 pace.  I managed to muster up enough oxygen to say “Excuse me” and the only guy in the Big Three waddled out of my lane into lane 6.  His lady friends moved into 7 and 8.  Perfect.

But roughly a minute and a half later, when I came through again having completed another lap while they had only managed some 50 meters or so, our large friend was once again in lane 5, so again I struggled to gather up enough air to call out “Excuse me” and again, he moved into lane 6.

We repeated this, over, and over, and over again.  Really?  A lab rat with mediocre rat intelligence would have figured this out after 2 laps.  Highly frustrating.  I started getting really angry.  But just as I was about to flip out and scream at somebody, I had an epiphany.

I took a really good look at my surroundings.  I was running in a postcard.  It was a picture-perfect morning, temps in the high 60’s, a few lovely clouds drifted across the piercing blue sky, as I ran on a campus every bit as appealing as any in the Ivy League.  Why was I getting upset?  Somewhere, someone on this planet was being tortured, or starving to death, or rummaging through a garbage dump in the rain, and I’m whining because somebody is in my lane?  Perspective.  I relaxed and instead began enjoying the fact that I live in such a beautiful area, and that I am able to run at all.  Everything changed – I enjoyed myself.  And the Big 3 left soon, leaving only Kenny Rogers and me.  Life is good.

I finished the workout and it went relatively well – I averaged in the low 3’s for my 800’s and even dropped a 2:56 on my last one.

Thursday – Hills

I decided to get some hill work in since I want to be prepared for the rolling landscapes I’ll be facing in the Hood to Coast and Blue Ridge relays.

I needed to take it pretty easy after the prior day’s relatively tough workout, but the legs felt good so I jogged the downhills and flat stretches but pushed the pace on the uphill sections.  Things were going well until about mile 5.

A bug, I assumed a June bug or some other innocuous insect, flew into my chest and found itself entangled in the forest of hair there.  I calmly went to swipe it away with my right hand when it latched on and suddenly stung my ring finger.  Much cursing ensued as this encounter hurt like a feather plucker.  I spent the remaining 4 miles sucking my finger, shaking my hand, basically trying anything to make the pain go away.  On the plus side, since I was so focused on the pain of the sting, I mostly missed the pain of running up the hills.

I have to believe the toughness of this course would rate at least a ‘Hard’ on the Blue Ridge Relay difficulty scale.  Here’s a pic of the elevation chart:

Surely this would rank at least 'Hard' on the Blue Ridge Relay scale. Great preparation workout.

The University '5 fingers' hill workout course map. Apparently there is some relationship between hills and politicians as each hilly street is named after a former politician.

Friday – Slog

What started as an easy run, ended as a Bataan Death March.  I followed my newly found 8-mile course near Birkdale Village, which includes a little loop through a neighborhood with 2 significant hills.  After the last hill, I found myself slogging.  When my shoe lace came untied around the 7.75 mile mark, I bent over to tie it and literally nearly passed out – I got dizzy and started seeing stars.  I took that as a sign that I should probably walk for a bit, which I did.

Once I no longer saw stars, I slogged in the remaining quarter mile.

Question for Meagan – I have discovered that nearly every one of my slogs over the last few weeks has 1 thing in common – I am wearing my Fast Fulcrum Rides.  What the fulcrum?!?

Saturday – 10K

Time to show the Orthocarolina Classic 10K who’s the boss.  This race destroyed me one year ago – it was payback time.

I awoke with a tickly throat and a cough, but this isn’t unusual as I have asthma – it didn’t seem significant as I got ready and headed out.

I arrived in plenty of time, 6:45 for a 7:45 start, but, like the moron that I am, I parked in the wrong lot (at Presbyterian instead of Orthocarolina), but no big deal as this simply tacked on another quarter mile to my warm up.

I jogged over and picked up my race packet when I spotted Dean.  I pinned my bib on and then chatted briefly with contenders Paul, Aaron, and my most recent arch-rival Carolyn.  Then Dean and I took off for a warm-up.

The humidity was palpable as the temps rose into the high 70’s – so much for the feel of autumn.  I saw Bob Heck, who destroyed me in this race last year, and thought, “Damn, there goes any chance of a masters’ win.”

It drizzled a bit as we lined up for the start, some 75-100 meters farther down the road than last year.  The starter called out on the bullhorn, “We have about 4 minutes until the start” and about a minute later she said, “Ready, set, go!”

The plan this year was to conserve energy, go out slowly and finish strong.  I really felt like I was throttling back when Dean called me out, saying something like, “Aren’t you supposed to be starting slow?” (of course the fact that he was right next to me indicated that he was going out too fast as well, which he pointed out).  It felt slow, but the fact that we were heading straight down had something to do with that.

The rest of the race was virtually identical to last year’s, with the following differences:  1) Mitchell is coming off an injury so when I passed him around mile 1, he never passed me back, unlike last year.  2)  Bob passed me later in the race this year, around mile 3 I think, whereas last year he did it shortly after mile 1, if I’m not mistaken.  3) Derrick and Nathan weren’t in it this year so they never blew past.  4) There were few guys my age racing this year so I won some age group awards.  5) I was a tad faster this year.

The last time I spoke with Nathan, I told him I’d be going out slow the first mile this year.  He answered, “No you won’t”.  How is it that he knows me better than I know me?  But to be fair, I did go out 5 seconds slower this year than last.  Here are the side-by-side splits.  The thing that really stands out to me is that mile 6 is exactly the same:

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Leonard will be happy to know that I sprinted the last 100 meters or so with some guy (results reveal him to be 35-year-old Jim Benonis).  He and I passed each other at least 3 times along the course, with me leading past the 6 mile point.  He blew past in the last quarter which just made me angry – I was perfectly content to slog it in until he showed up.  He was balding which made me think he may be in my age group and wouldn’t I be upset if I missed out on some cool prize because I let him go.  So I accelerated.  So did Jim.  So I ran even faster.  So did Jim.  Other ducker, I all-out sprinted to barely beat Jim to the line.  I threw my singlet to the ground and cursed in disgust when I saw the clock – 42:50-something.  Does anyone remember back in April when I ran a 10K in 39:50-something?  Because I do.

Oh well, I chalked it up to weak legs after a pretty tough week.

After the race, Ken was waiting at the finish line (which made this race even more like last year’s when he was standing in the exact same spot – major deja vu).  We chatted and Dean was kind enough to snap this picture for us:

Hanging out with Ken post-race.

Apparently, most 40-something guys sat this one out.  Bob won the masters, Michael Lemmons (who passed me late in the race and later introduced himself to Dean and I) got second, and I took third, good enough for a $30 gift certificate.  Then, after I just finished telling Ken how you can’t get 2 awards for masters and age-group, my name was called out again for a 2nd place age group award.  So I left with $45 in gift certificates to the Charlotte Running Company – a pretty good haul for 25th place overall.

Here are all the pluses from today.  I ran a race – always be grateful that you can run at all – don’t wait for another injury to remind you of this.  This race reminds me a lot of the Hickory Charity Chase Half Marathon.  Both races are relatively small, well organized, brutal running affairs, but with good prizes and good swag.  I love when Smoothie King shows up for a race – their smoothies make for great post-race drinks!  I saw and chatted with old running pals Dean, Ken, Théoden, Paul, Aaron, Carolyn, Bob, and Billy.  I met new running friends Mike Lemmons and Mark Ippolito (DARTer).

After arriving home, the scratchy throat and cough got worse.  By the afternoon, they proved to be a full-fledged cold.  Son of a biscuit eater – I have the world’s worst immune system.  I holed up the rest of the day Saturday and envied those outside enjoying the beautiful weather.

Sunday – Recovery and Blog Writing

Which brings us up to date.  I skipped my usual Sunday long run today to try and shake this cold.  I really must lose it by Wednesday when I head out to run in the grandest relay in these United States, Hood to Coast.  I can’t wait!  The next post should be a good one!

Until then, see you on the roads, tracks, and trails!


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