The Last Race of 2011

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except for Allen, in search of his racing flats.

Throughout my history of running, I’ve always gotten into shape, or gotten back into shape as the case might be, by racing.  And I hope I still can.  So with Christmas rapidly approaching, I began searching the Internets (Dub spelling) to find a little race.  I discovered the Mount Mourne Christmas Elf 5K was scheduled for Christmas Eve.  In nearby Mooresville, flat, fast, and fun, this race was perfect, precisely what I was looking for.

I talked Nancy into running it with me and on the drive over, I started convincing myself that a Christmas miracle was not impossible – I had an outside shot of winning this thing.  Granted, I would have to run significantly faster than I did at the West Virginia race a week earlier, and I’d need some help from some of my fast friends – namely, they’d need to stay home, but both of these things were possible.  At Runners’ Lunch the day before, not a soul mentioned this race.  So I was pretty sure that super-fast John Compton wouldn’t be there.  Neither would Kevin “The Gypsy Kid” Ballantine.  No Théoden either, who had run this race with me 2 years ago.  So you’re telling me there’s a chance.

We arrived a little after 8:00 for a race that was set to start at 9:00, I parked, and we made our way into the fire department to register and stay warm on this chilly morning.  5 seconds after entering the building, I spotted this guy, and any dream of winning instantly crashed and burned:

Fam, the guy in the USA singlet, was in Mooresville to run the Mt. Mourne Christmas Elf 5K.

In case you're not following me yet, here's another pic from the 2008 Olympics where Fam is leading, you heard me, LEADING, the Steeplechase Final.

That’s right, Fam, Anthony Famiglietti, came to Mooresville,  NC to run the Mt. Mourne 5K.  And yes, these pictures are from the 2008 Olympic games.  This is the equivalent of showing up to play a little basketball tournament with your okay local rec league team only to find out that Kobe Bryant is playing for the other team. Unless some Kenyans showed up, this race would be for second place.  Seriously, if Galen Rupp showed up looking for an easy win, he might see Anthony and think, “Sh*t, what’s Fam doing here?”

I looked around some  more and spotted Bobby Aswell.  Okay, so maybe I could get 3rd.  Then I saw Brian McMahon.  Alright, I’m okay with 4th.  Then Jim McKeon.  Fifth?  Then Stan.  I quit counting.  Let’s just put in a decent effort, shall we?

Nancy and I ran a little warm-up and then it was go time.  We all lined up in front of the fire department, between fire trucks, as the race director gave us a few last minute instructions.  I couldn’t hear him.  I heard Fam ask a few guys about the course and I heard Jim Crotts tell him that the course had changed.  Then I heard “Go!” and we were off.

After the race, BMac told Stan and I, “I thought I’d try to go out with him [Fam] for a bit, like maybe 100 meters or so.  I couldn’t keep up with him for 2 steps.  He was gone.”

I felt fine initially so I ran exactly like I did back when I was in shape.  I tucked in behind Stan for a little bit until I reminded myself that I was not fit and I had better back off.  We passed the road where 2 years ago we had turned left.  “Ah, so this is where the course has changed”, I thought to myself, following the crowd.  My Garmin beeped at 1 mile, “6:13”.  Uh-oh, a bit fast, but I resisted the urge to panic.

Seconds later, Fam was coming back toward me with an already insurmountable lead.  The rest of us were headed up a hill where a firetruck waited at the apex.  Something seemed amiss and while the crowd of runners turned around in front of the firetruck, Jim McKeon went straight past the truck.  What the?  I thought maybe he knew something the rest of us didn’t and that perhaps I should follow him, but we were getting too far out,  much farther and we’d be running more than a 5K.  I decided to make like a lemming and go with the masses.

Shortly thereafter, we turned right.  I started feeling a little iffy, sucking wind a tad too hard.  Second split, 6:35.  Hang on, Allen, hang on!

Then it hit me.  Hard.  Like so many times in the past, I had overestimated my abilities, the running equivalent of Icarus – I flew too close to the sun and my wax wings started melting.  The guys I used to beat regularly started blowing by me, one by one, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.  Jim Crotts, Richard Hefner, Chad Randolph.  Richard attempted to encourage me when he called out, “Come on Allen, let’s go!”  But I didn’t have enough energy to even respond.  I tried to acknowledge him with a wave.

Chad came by and asked, “How’s the leg?” and I managed to answer, “The leg’s fine, but I’ve got nothing aerobically.  I’m done.”  I tried to just finish with a decent effort.  I think every DART runner had passed me by this point.  I’m pretty sure every Charlotte Running Club runner had too.

When my watch beeped at me to signal the third mile split, I looked at it with disgust – it was so slow that I’m too embarrassed to post it here.  Let’s just say that I ran a 2 mile tempo and started my cool-down early.  Then I noticed that we had significantly more than .11 of a mile left.  There had been a mistake somewhere.

I slogged it in, allowing one last effort to maintain some tiny shred of pride when the women’s leader passed me with about 100 meters to go.  Insert curse words here.  I picked it up enough to pass her back at the line.  Sad, I know.

I nearly pooped a brick when I looked up at the clock and saw 22:58.  I knew things were bad, but 23-minutes bad?!?  It actually turns out that we had run an additional 3-tenths of a mile or so – we all should have made that left but the cop car in front had led Fam, and subsequently the rest of us, off course.  I came through the 5K in a time nearly identical to that of my West Virginia race.  Slow, but not 22:58 slow.  My friend Mark Ulrich, in my 5k wheelhouse, shows up to a small-town 5K and wins and sets the course record.  I show up to a small-town 5K and Olympians are there and I finish 27th.

Later that day someone posted this pic on the Davidson Area Running Team page on Facebook and I made the comment that becomes the caption here:

My final Jeopardy answer is "Who are 5 guys that beat me today?"

Afterward, I ran a pleasant little cool-down with BMac and Stan.  Stan is the only person I know who has experienced this same abdominal injury that I’m currently working through.  When he explained his symptoms, they sounded identical to mine.  He told me that his just mysteriously went away after about 3 months so I’m holding out hope that mine will too.  In the meantime, I’ll do some planks and maybe crunches to see if I can’t speed things along.

I was a little down on myself after the race.  But then a random guy stopped me and said, “Hey, are you Allen?”  When I responded affirmatively, he asked, “Allen’s road to Boston?”  After I answered yes again, he proceeded to tell his buddy how great/funny my blog is and then he recited a few of the humorous bits from the last post.  That was kinda cool and helped lift my spirits a little.  I didn’t think anyone other than friends and family read this thing.

I needed to get out of there in order to make it to the Panthers game on time.  I had gotten tickets (thanks to pal Scott Helms!) and was taking my dad as an early Christmas/birthday present (he was born the day after Christmas), but a quick perusal of the results showed that Nancy was due an age-group award (me, not so much), in her first ever 5K no less.

I have slipped quite a few rungs down the fitness ladder – it’s going to take me some time to climb back up.  But hey, at least I’m able to run at all, something that was not guaranteed a couple of months ago.  And there was a great post-race spread, complete with banana bread, Biscuitville biscuits (one of which I tried to down post-race, before my stomach was ready – bad idea), Chex party mix, and candy bars.  This race reminds me of China Grove – a small, fast race, with a great post-race lay out.  The crowds will only get bigger.  Maybe someday someone will finish within 3 minutes of Fam.  Nancy got her trophy and we hightailed it out of there.  I rushed home, showered, shot over and picked up my dad, my brother-in-law, and 3 of my nephews, and we made it to the stadium just in time to watch the Panthers roll the Bucs in convincing fashion, 48-16.  The day finished well.

2011 Review

2011 was a microcosm of my running life, with me facing some low lows but also relishing in some high highs.

The lows – I struggled with injuries through the last quarter of the year.  But let’s forget about the lows.

The highs – the highlight, of course, was registering for, and getting accepted into, the 2012 Boston Marathon.  Other highlights include a 10K PR of 39:54 at Cooper River and a half marathon PR of 1:29:08 at Myrtle Beach.  I ran a master’s PR in the 5K when I ran an 18:58 at the Bunny Run 5K back in April.  I added 4 more states to my quest to run a road race in every state in America – Georgia, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Oregon.  I competed in 3 huge American spectacle races – Cooper River, Peachtree, and Hood to Coast.  I got back on the track by racing in a few of the open meets at Myers Park High School – that was a ton of fun.

I had a great 2011 and I’m looking forward to an even greater 2012 with plans to run in the Boston and New York marathons.  See you next year!

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2 Responses to “The Last Race of 2011”

  1. Richard Hefner Says:

    Allen… You’ll be back to your old self as long as you never give up. I still remember how strong you looked as you blew past me at Myrtle Beach last year, and I’m sure there’s plenty more ahead for you.

  2. Mureen Sullivan Says:

    The course was 600 m too long. See Fam’s Facebook status for 12/24/11.

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