Catching Up

After recently receiving statements from my many hordes of fans (and by “many hordes”, I mean 5), I freely admit that I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties.  Don’t worry gang – I vow not to disappear,  a la one Jordan Kinley who leaves us all hanging for months on end every time he stumps his toe.

So here it goes, the highlights of the last couple of weeks, in all their glory (content edited to fit your PC, tablet, or phone).

Tuesday, June 12 – Run For Your Life Summer Track Series

On this day, I woke up with some strange pain in my butt that was bad enough to cause me to limp.  I packed a bag of running clothes anyway, just in case I had a miraculous recovery by the time I got off of work.

And I did.  The pain that tailed me all day suddenly and mysteriously disappeared by 5:00, as I was leaving my Dilbert-esque cubicle.  Pain was there all day, and then it simply wasn’t.  The running gods who had failed me so miserably of late (see Boston) came through for once – they like to randomly do that to keep you coming back, sort of like the occasional win at the casino.  Just like that, I was pain free and ready to race.  I jumped into my running clothes and shot over to Myers Park High School, quickly, while my glutes and Achilles were still cooperating.

I pulled into the Myers Park parking lot and ran over to the Run For Your Life tent to pay.  Things had changed a little since last year when you paid per event – now you paid $8 and ran in as many events as you wanted.  This was quite the bargain for Stan who ran in something like 15 events.  It was a bit steep for someone like me who was only running 1 event.  I didn’t want to tempt fate anymore today than I already had – don’t get greedy.  I decided to only run the mile.

I warmed up on the track a little, moving to the infield on the home stretch where the kids were racing.  I caught up to Anna and chatted a bit before she peeled off.  Then Chad and Danielle showed up so I jogged with them as they headed out to warm up.  Caleb appeared shortly thereafter and joined us as we jogged towards the Alexander Graham Middle School track.

I got back moments before Tim Rhodes made the final call for the mile.  As was the case last year at the meet, I had a choice to make.  Should I run the fast or the slow heat?  I thought I could go about 5:45, so I waited for Tim and company to announce the cut-off time between fast and slow before I made a decision.  My fast pals – Stan, Matt Jaskot, etc., lobbied for me to run the fast heat but I still had a vivid memory of listening to the fast kids last year, then struggling to avoid coming in last.  This year, I would let the cut-off time, not pride, decide which heat to run.  If the announced fast heat time was 5:45 or over, I’d run it, otherwise I’d run the slower one.  “5:30 and under!”, came the final pronouncement.  Slow heat it was.

I cheered on the fast gang and moments later it was the “slower than 5:30” group’s time to race.  The gun fired and two kids shot out in front, one boy and one girl, with yours truly a few steps back.  The kids were little, I’m guessing younger than 12, and I prayed they would come back to me.  I could only imagine the jokes I would forever be the butt of if these tiny children bested me.

The little girl looked at her watch and yelled “Oh crap!” and instantly dropped back, which made me chuckle.  The little boy fell back with her, leaving me in the lonely lead.

But I loved it there.  It’s been so long since I’ve led a race, any race, for any length of time.  It was so reminiscent of high school that I got a little nostalgic and half expected Reggie Littlejohn to pass me at any second.  Luckily, no Reggie in this race.

I heard my name a lot and I heard Matt yell, “Looks like this second heat thing is working out for you”.  I glanced at my watch briefly a couple of times just to make sure my heart rate wasn’t too out of control.

At the third lap, I intentionally tried to pick things up, just knowing from the good ol’ days that the third lap is where a miler typically loses focus and speed.  Every lap, Aaron had cheered and it went something like this, “Way to go Strickland, looking good!  Stay with him ladies!”  I figured Anna and Emily were right there and I didn’t feel like being gentlemanly and giving up the lead.

Finally, I rounded the last turn with nothing ahead of me but open track.  I picked it up just as some guy – results reveal him to be Max Kennedy – passed me.  But he seemed very labored and the pass felt half-hearted to me so I did my best Nick Symmonds imitation and kicked things into another gear.  Max let me go and I won the heat in 5:47.  I am a little embarrassed to have been as happy as I was over a 5:47 mile, but it’s been so long since I crossed the line first in any race, slow heat or not.

Me, winning a heat for the first time since the early 80’s. 5:47 or no, I’ll take it (I certainly had a lot more fun than I would have finishing last in the fast heat.)

Friday, June 15 – Summit Coffee Summer Solstice 4-Miler

Earlier in the week of the fifteenth, I mulled over whether or not I wanted to run this race when Théoden had one of his little contests on Facebook – first 4 to respond to his post won a free entry.  Nearly an hour had passed before I noticed the contest and there were already 4 comments – it looked as if the contest were over, but I opened the comments anyway, just in case.  Good thing I did because 1 of the comments was from Chad Randolph stating that he was volunteering and therefore couldn’t enter.  A free entry goes a long way in helping me make a decision to run a race.  I was in.

Friday night rolled around and Laura (along for moral support) and I made the long 7-mile drive to downtown Davidson.  Running a little late with the race set to start in less than an hour, I quickly pinned my bib to my shorts and set out to warm up.

With this race kind of small and a bit of a drive for Charlotteans, I entertained dreams of having an outside shot to win.  I knew a couple of the DART’ers who could crush this dream were volunteering, so the chance, albeit a slim one, existed.  But 5 steps into my warm-up, I saw this guy coming from the other direction:

2 time Olympian Anthony Famiglietti running the Summit Solstice 4-miler. And Allen’s dream of winning dies a quick death. (Photo courtesy of DavidsonNews.net)

I called out, “Fam, are you running this thing?” and he responded, “Yeah man!” and jogged over.  We talked for a minute during which time he assured me that he knew the course (a reference to this race).  Oh well, Allen, kiss any hopes of winning goodbye bro, it ain’t happening tonight.

I continued on my warm-up when I spotted Chas.  I called out, “Hey man, Fam’s here.  We’re all running for second.”  I mentally dropped myself into third place.  Then I saw Vincent Weir, a Davidson College runner (I didn’t know him by name at the time, but he’d blazed by me enough times on the Davidson trails that I knew there was no way I was beating him).  Fourth place.  Then Eric Reiner. I quit counting and quickly shifted goals to just hoping for an age group.

A few moments later, we lined up on a side street behind the CVS, and moments after that we were racing.  As expected, Fam shot out to the front and Weir tried to lock on – I wondered later if Weir knew who Fam was.  If not, how frustrated he must have been.  “Who is this guy?!?”  Can you imagine being a solid DI runner, expecting to pick up a nice and easy win, and some Olympian shows up?!

Fam and Weir quickly buried the field.  I wanted to try and run some 6:30’s, but with the exception of an easy downhill 6:25 for the first mile, it wasn’t happening.  Instead, I kept a close eye on the heart rate, trying to keep it under 170, which I mostly did.

The really cool thing about this race was that most of it was run on the Davidson cross-country course, a place where I run regularly.  As soon as we hit the trails, I relaxed, knowing I wouldn’t get lost (and even had I never run here before, the gang at Summit Coffee did a great job marking the course – no way to get lost.)  So I was comfortable, you know except for that excruciating pain that so often accompanies running all-out.

At the water stop, I waved to volunteers Dave Munger and Chad Randolph, when Chad snapped this photo:

Me, cruising through the Davidson trails. Chad snapped some good pics, especially when you consider that he was handing out water while simultaneously playing photographer.

I enjoyed this one, despite a rather slow 28:33 (I remember the days when my 5-mile times were significantly faster than this).  I felt fast, I put forth a hard effort, I finished in the top-10, and I won the 40-49 age group.  I was okay with that.

The post race was awesome – New Belgium beer (granted, it cost bucks, but that’s not too awful), free Hawthorne’s Pizza, and entertainment by the band Cast Iron Skillet.  Laura and I hung out with Sarah Keen and Emily Hansen and, along with a few hundred of our friends in Davidson, had a grand time.  Kudos to Summit Coffee for hosting a great event.

The Rest

Some brief highlights of what else has gone down since we last spoke:

  • The Gypsy Kid (who no longer looks like a Gypsy Kid as he is all clean-shaven these days – somebody please give him a new nickname) came out of retirement to accompany me on a long run.  I stepped on a rock and screamed as it bruised my foot and hurt like hell.  Said Kevin, “Where is it?”  As I pointed to my foot, he said, “Oh okay, there for a second I couldn’t see it with that giant vagina in the way!”
  • In another Summer Track Series meet, I ran the mile (actually 1600m) and 2-mile (3200m) in 5:40 and 12:20 respectively.  As is so often the case, I chased Bobby Aswell (in the mile), but he dropped me in the last quarter, as is also so often the case.  But the highlight of that meet was Chris Lamperski’s 4:20 mile – crazy!  It was nice to see someone make Bert earn the win, for a change.
  • Ran with Leonard again, for the first time in months – it was nice to catch up.
  • On an easy little junk-miles run through the Davidson trails, I came along a tiny little fawn (that’s a baby deer for you non-zoology majors) right in the middle of the trail, at the kudzu section (aside – where are the goats, Davidson?!?  It’s literally a jungle through there!)  He froze, which was a fine strategy given the circumstances, but is a really bad strategy if he ever encounters a real predator.  I easily could have reached down and petted him, but instead I high-tailed it through there – where there’s a tiny, baby deer, a big mama deer cannot be far away.
  • I am really digging the Olympic trials, although I’m bummed that Fam narrowly missed out on competing.  Even more painful than Fam’s situation was watching Julia Lucas (a Myers Park grad, I’m told) miss making the Olympic team by the thinnest of margins.  Oh so very ouch.

And that’s it.  All five of you are now caught up on Allen’s Road to Boston.  I will try to stay more current in bringing you new updates!

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