The Leprechaun Loop 8K

A couple of weeks ago, when I first heard that the Summit racing series would be sponsored by the Triple C Brewing Company, I knew Laura and I would need to sign up and represent, seeing as how we have a little partnership with Triple C these days, what with our Thursday night beer runs and all.  And besides, I have run a couple of the Summit races in the past and they’re a ton of fun – the post race ranks right up at the top of Charlotte area races.  So we registered.

Saturday afternoon, we rushed to get ready.  It was a little trickier than the typical race as race time was 6:00 PM and I was trying to watch my alma mater, the University of North Carolina, take on Maryland in the second round of the ACC tournament.  I was a wee bit upset as I knew I’d have to miss much of the game to make it to the race on time.  And to add to the complicated logistics, Laura and I were trying to throw together some impromptu Triple C racing gear.  Chris Murphy, one of three Triple C owners, had ordered some nice racing gear, complete with Laura’s brilliant Triple C Beer Runners logo, but they hadn’t arrived on time.  So we scrambled to make some homemade ones – some of my old singlets with iron-on decals.  We completed our new gear around 4:30 and jumped in the car.  With some 600+ runners expected, parking would be at a premium so I wanted to give us ample time to arrive in Davidson and find a good spot.

We arrived in Davidson shortly after 5:00, plenty of time to find convenient parking and get warmed up.  My Heels had a commanding 12-point lead so I felt like the game was in the bag and I could safely warm up without missing much.  There were already long lines queued at the port-a-johns, but being the savvy local that I am, I directed Laura across the street to the CVS where we walked straight into the nice clean restrooms without waiting.

Having completed our pre-race necessities, we headed out for a warm-up.  I was, as I have been for over a month now, concerned about Laura’s problematic calf – her gait was pretty limpy.  But she needed the points for the overall series competition so was going to give it a go.  I felt fine, albeit a little lethargic which I think the weather contributed to – Laura’s car thermometer read 78 when we parked.   I like to joke around about the North Carolina seasons so I said, “Winter, winter, summer”.  At the start of the Columbia half, we wore gloves, sleeves, and caps and the temperature was under 40 – one week later, it was 78 and I felt hot in a singlet.

We ran along South street when I spotted the Davidson timing guys, Chad and Dave, setting up at the finish line.  I ran over and asked Chad, “Hey Chad, what’s the course?  Will we be running on the greenway?” and he answered, “Hey Allen, no this one’s different…” and  “…you’ll come up the hill and finish here.”  Ouch, South street is a nasty little incline, great to start down, not so great to finish up.  Then Dave chimed in, “You’ll start over by city hall…yeah, this course is a tough one.”  Oh well, so much for a fast time.

We finished our little one-mile warm-up at the car, where I started to change out of my trainers and into something more racing-flat-esque.  As I was changing my shoes, I heard my phone sounding the “you’ve got text” chime, so I grabbed it and read this rather cryptic text from my buddy John, “I don’t know how Strickland misses so many shots from 6 ft”.  Uh-oh, that can’t be good – he wouldn’t have sent that if we were still crushing Maryland.  So I quickly turned on the radio to discover Carolina was only up by 3 points with 1:07 to go.  I cursed!

Both my Achilles hurt so I decided to stay with the more supportive trainers (brand spanking new New Balance 890s, thanks to Run For Your Life gift certificates I’d gotten over Christmas).  It was after 5:45 and I saw green clad hordes making their way toward the starting line.  I couldn’t leave yet though – my Heels were in a dog fight.  I was on the verge of panicking when P.J. Hairston missed a free throw with some 15 seconds to go, but Maryland’s Logan Aronhalt bailed us out by heaving up an airball with 10 seconds left.  We got the rebound and ran the clock out.  I cheered, turned off the radio, and Laura and I hoofed it over to the start.

I was pretty stunned at the size of this crowd – 600+ runners in tiny Davidson is quite an impressive showing.  We lined up as one of the organizers exhorted everybody to move back – the official starting line was some 50 yards behind where we stood.  The huge crowd slowly, begrudgingly moved back until we were even with the starting banner.  DARTers Cliff Weston and Tommy Wagoner, both wearing Reckless Running singlets, did a few strides before Cliff approached me and said something like “I was surveying the crowd and looking for fast folks when I spotted this guy in a blue singlet…” (meaning me) “…and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, that guy looks fast!”  I replied, “Ha, yeah, if you can’t be fast you might as well look fast!”  He asked me what I was planning to run and I told him, “If I can have a few splits under 7:00, I’ll be happy.”

Meanwhile, I was scoping out the fast kids, too.  I had no delusions of even a shot at a win with this crowd, but I wanted to at least get some kind of idea where I might finish.  Laura pointed out a fast-looking svelte kid and we both questioned his choice of attire – he was wearing what looked like a cotton t-shirt.  I said something like, “I think he’s trying to blend in, to not draw attention to the fact that he’s fast”.  But the vast majority of this crowd had the look of “We are here to party.  This race is an unfortunate prelude to the festivities afterward.” as so many were clad in green Leprechaun attire.  I thought I might have an outside shot at a top-10 finish.

After a few announcements – where Laura and I cheered loudly at the mention of Triple C as one of the sponsors – Brian Helfrich, Summit owner, counted us down and yelled “Go!” and we were off.

I hadn’t been able to find my heart rate monitor before the race, so I was running without it – danger, danger!  But I felt fine and wanted to push the limits today – I needed to get an idea of where my fitness was so I could plan future workouts accordingly.  And as we started out going downhill, I was cranking out sub-6 pace early.

Tommy Wagoner in the Reckless Running singlet, and I in the blue, home made Triple C Beer Runner singlet, chase the kid in the cotton tee.

Tommy Wagoner in the Reckless Running singlet, and I in the blue, homemade Triple C Beer Runner singlet, chase the kid in the cotton tee.  (PS – this is one of those cool pics where, with some minimal cropping, I can make it look like I am leading a huge race…)

allen leads

Look, I’m winning!

The farther we got in, the more I calmed down.  As we neared the one-mile mark, I had eased back to around 6:20 pace when Cliff caught me and said, “7-minute pace, huh?”  I just laughed and responded, “I always go out too fast!”  I continued to slow down as Cliff pushed past.  I tried to relax and settle in at my original goal pace of sub-sevens.

But it wasn’t easy.  Dave had not embellished – this course was tough and hills abounded.  I tried to get comfortable but it never happened – I was sucking wind hard and felt dehydrated.  When I spat (spitted?  help me out English majors), it was like blowing sand.  And before the 2-mile mark, I felt rather pukey – I kept backing off while trying to use the power of suggestion, “Just don’t puke.  Just don’t puke.”  This mile felt like the longest mile I’ve raced since mile 26 of Boston last year – it seemed like I ran for an hour between the mile 1 and mile 2 markers.  It was during this time that several people, including the 2 women’s leaders, zipped past me like I was standing still.

But up ahead, Tommy looked like he was fading a bit so I just focused on trying to catch him – I thought he might be in my age group (he’s clearly younger, but these were 10-year age groups and I thought he could be 40).  In the meantime, a guy in a giant green Leprechaun/Dr. Seuss-esque hat confidently, comfortably, even as he chatted with all the volunteers, passed me and I inwardly cursed and hated him.  Seconds later, a girl with hair covered in green glitter and green shorts covered in rhinestones or glitter and/or some other sparkly bling, passed me like I was moving backwards.  I didn’t hate her quite as much as the Leprechaun as at least she was svelte and “real-runner” looking, despite her ridiculous garb.  Note: she finished as the third woman overall AND won the costume contest – that’s an impressive double – the best costumed performance since the infamous Taco of the Huntersville Fall festival!

Shortly after mile 2, we hit the greenway and I looked for Chad so I could yell, “Hey!  We are running on the greenway!”   I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, this is making the blog.”  Then I noticed that Tommy was nearer now so I made an even more concerted effort to catch him.  Having run on the greenway many times, I felt comfortable here, knowing what lied ahead, and felt this was as good a place as any to make a move.  I surged past.

Moments later, somebody passed me and I could have sworn it was Cliff, but he was already far ahead, right?  Maybe he made a pit stop earlier?  Anyway, it felt a little surreal, Twilight-Zoneishy.  But then Tommy went with him and passed me back just before we made the left onto Pine and started climbing again.  Damn, I needed a sherpa and an oxygen tank.

Again, I fought back puke and struggled to breathe and tried to reel Tommy back in, but gradually, trying to wisely make up the time.  Then a bulky, muscular guy, sans shirt, with his bib pinned to the back of his shorts, passed me and I thought, “Damn it, I am not losing to a rodeo rider” and as soon as we started back down I jetted past him.  Gravity is my friend on the downhills – I don’t fight it.

And then I just chased Tommy, ever so slowly inching my way closer and closer.  Around mile 4, we headed down Woodland Street, another road I am intimately familiar with having trained on it many times.  I knew this was my best last chance to make a move – every time I had passed Tommy, we were going down and every time he passed me, we were going up.  We would be climbing again soon so I hoped to surge now and create an insurmountable gap before we went back up.  I sprinted (Garmin shows my pace at this point to be 5:09/mile) past and hoped I had finally created enough distance between us.

Because now we started climbing our way back to the finish, up, up, and ever upward.  When we hit South for the final quarter of a mile, a shadow came up beside me and I assumed it was Tommy so I just gritted my teeth and came as close to kicking as I could.  When I finished, bent over with my hands on my quads, while I fought back puke yet again, I looked back and saw not Tommy, but Rodeo (results show it to be 26-year-old Kris Scott), who had made the last-minute surge, with Tommy right behind him.  I grabbed a water and staggered back towards the finish line to wait for Laura.

She finished strongly for someone with a bum leg and then we “rushed” (limped/staggered) back to Summit where we could start participating in the fun stuff.  We retrieved our IDs from the car, got our “of age” (as if it was ever in doubt) bracelets, and bought a couple of our favorite Triple C beers, aka Golden Boy.  Laura pointed out that this had been her recovery drink for her last 3 longest runs.  We put our packet plastic bags to good use by filling them with ice and icing down our various ailing spots.  We talked a random stranger into snapping this pic for us:

Triple C representin'

Triple C representin’

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, enjoying good post-race music, food, conversation, and of course, beer.  I spotted the kid with the blue cotton tee and asked him if he won.  “No, I got third.” he answered.  He introduced himself as Joe Rao and I recognized him from DART Facebook posts and we talked for a while.  Laura and I hung out with our Triple C buddy Ben for a bit.  We chowed on some delicious Davidson Pizza (which is really Hawthorne’s Pizza, the Davidson version), then chatted with DARTer Lori Ackerman, and her husband Ashley, while I was enamored with their sweet little dog, Chloe. Laura, even at about 75%, won her age group, while I, at let’s call it 90%, came in third in mine (11th overall and only 3rd in my age group!)

Another fun race in the books as I continue this “race your way back into shape” training approach.  Say what you want, a 5-mile race with some 600 of your friends is sooo much more fun than a 5-mile tempo alone!  I’ll take it.  And so it goes as we continue to count down to the 2014 Boston marathon and a shot at redemption.


3 Responses to “The Leprechaun Loop 8K”

  1. Cliff Weston Says:

    Nice seeing you again, Allen! That was me passing you again — I hid out in a fortuitous Port-A-John around 2.1mi into the race (not brazen enough to use the CVS bathroom).

  2. Laura gray Says:

    hey… you were 10th overall! change that 11!

    >________________________________ > From: Allen’s Road To Boston >To: >Sent: Sunday, March 17, 2013 12:42 PM >Subject: [New post] The Leprechaun Loop 8K > > > >Allen Strickland posted: “A couple of weeks ago, when I first heard that the Summit racing series would be sponsored by the Triple C Brewing Company, I knew Laura and I would need to sign up and represent, seeing as how we have a little partnership with Triple C these days, what w” >

  3. Kati Says:

    Nice work on the homemade gear, ya little DIYers! Oh, and I guess good job on the race, too, or whatever.

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